On the tenth day of freshers, Impact gave to me… a break from freshers content!
Lujain Alkhalaf looks into whether we really should be eating three meals a day.
How many times have you been told that you should be eating three meals a day? Most of us have grown up seeing this as the normal eating pattern. But have we always consumed three meals?
Well, the introduction of three meals seems to be a more recent tradition. For instance, the ancient Romans opted for only one large meal a day around noon. They believed that this was healthier particularly for the digestive system.
It is believed that the term breakfast, literally meaning “to break the night’s fast”, entered the English language during this time.
In the Middle Ages, life was pivoted around religion and nothing could be eaten before morning mass which made way for the medieval two-meal pattern (around noon and 6pm). It is believed that the term breakfast, literally meaning “to break the night’s fast”, entered the English language during this time.
Any late suppers were frowned upon by the Church as they believed it made people greedier, which was a sin along with the eating of meat during religious observances. Wealthy people in the Middle Ages tended to follow the two-meal ‘rule’ as they didn’t want to commit the sin of gluttony, whereas poorer people attempted three smaller sized meals (if they could find it) as they needed the extra meal to fuel their labour.
European settlers who thought the lack of an eating schedule in Native American culture meant they were uncivilised
The consumption of three meals really came from European settlers who thought the lack of an eating schedule in Native American culture meant they were uncivilised. For the European settlers having a meal pattern provided them with greater belief of their civilization.
Eating three meals a day stems from cultural patterns, many people have adopted this as it provides a comfort in a predictable eating pattern. The government also placed an emphasis on breakfast consumption in the 1900s which normalised the three meals a day for many households.
No; three meals a day is a cultural modal not a biological necessity
Yet, many of you will be wondering if there is a biological necessity for eating three meals. And simply the answer is no; three meals a day is a cultural modal not a biological necessity. There’s even some recommendations to listen to your body’s internal signals and eat when you’re hungry rather than at set meal times.
Back in the 1970’s, fitness experts would recommend consumption of 5-6 small meals a day in contrast to three normal sized meals in order to improve your metabolism and energy levels while exercising. This is however not evidenced. Some experts believe that constant eating does not give your digestive system a chance to rest.
So, for the majority of people eating three meals a day is a good option, but for athletes more meals a day is usually required to keep up a high calorie intake and maintain their body weight and muscle mass. Additionally, older adults tend to eat small amounts at one mealtime so it can be recommended that they eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day to assist in their calorie intake.
Although eating three meals is based on a cultural modal many of us have adopted this pattern as it works around our busy schedules and it can provide a sense of stability in our hectic lives. Eating three meals also appears more favoured by experts (for most people) as it spreads your calorie intake across the day, helping with energy levels.
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