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Is eating three-day meals necessary anymore? (OP-ED)

The most important meals of the day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner have become a staple routine in modern American life. That said, times are changing, and among the many things being questioned surrounding the way we live our lives, the discussion around the way we eat has never been more pivotal.

Throughout history, there has been some sort of equivalent to the modern main three meals of the day, with meals like breakfast being largely taken by the wealthy. However, the concept wasn’t popularized until well into the 19th century at the beginning of industrialization. According to the BBC, the transition from rural farm work towards a more structured schedule within factories had led to workers eating meals that would get them through the day and complete their workload. 

These structured meals only gained more popularity and by the 1950s eating three meals a day became the norm for everyone no matter their status. While it has become the norm, by the turn of the 21st century, critiques against these meals began to gain major headway and it hasn’t gone away. Life in the 2020s is dramatically different from the early 19th century. Thanks to the abundance of food, high obesity rates, and changing work schedules, eating three meals a day isn’t as necessary anymore.

Now, many modern dietitians have noted that eating three meals a day can have the unintended effect of increasing the consumption of food between meals. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it’s hypothesized that having more frequent and smaller meals can even balance out hunger. Dietitian and Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Linda Van Horn summed it up in an article with the AHA, noting that the amount of food one should eat largely depends on a person’s body size. the body size of each person.

“It is suggested that those who eat more frequent, smaller meals have learned how to limit their intake at each meal and do not have the ravenous appetite that accompanies the starve-all-day, stuff-all-night approach. Overall, it is still the total calorie intake that determines someone’s body size,” said Horn, “Excess calorie intake, whether spread out over the day or consumed at one meal, will still contribute to weight gain.”

Taking it a bit further, Cornell University professor David Levitsky suggested that breakfast could be skipped altogether to the BBC.

“There’s a lot of data showing that, if I show you food or pictures of food, you’re likely to eat, and the more frequently food is in front of you, the more you’re going to eat that day,” Levitsky said, “When the clock says 12 p.m., we may get feelings to eat, or you might be conditioned to eat breakfast in the morning, but this is nonsense. Data shows that if you don’t eat breakfast, you’re going to eat fewer calories overall that day. Our physiology is built for feasting and fasting.”

Regardless, the discussion is still ongoing and until more complete consensus has been made, how people structure their meals should largely be left to them and their dietitian.

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