Meal frequency throughout the day is mostly a matter of preference. Whether you're a proponent of the classic three squares a day, opt to dine on five or six small meals, dine on one meal a day while in ketosis (OMAD), or fast throughout the week: finding a feeding schedule and routine isn't a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
More than there being a right or wrong feeding frequency, what matters is identifying the mealtime schedule that fits well with your lifestyle and meets your energy needs.
Although customizing your meal plan is essential for success and an effort that may require trial and effort on your part, we'll provide a baseline to help you determine the approach to low-carb living that's right for you.
Consider the following as you compose your keto weight loss meal plan and pre-portion meals for the coming week:
Eliminating carbs acts as a natural appetite suppressant: The number of meals you eat a day may lessen as you continue eating a low-carb, high-fat diet because your appetite diminishes when in ketosis and running on fat for fuel.
You may find yourself eating denser but fewer meals on a ketogenic diet as fat is highly filling and offers more caloric bang for your buck than other macronutrients.
- Fat is a highly-satiating macro, and you may find yourself feeling fuller, faster while consuming smaller portions.
- Breaking the fast later in the day often leads to fewer overall feedings. Plus, you may find yourself needing a reminder to eat as you continue sourcing fuel from fat because you feel satisfied for extended periods throughout the day in ways that are unfamiliar and encouraging. Welcome to a new and healthier relationship with food!
- Eat a Huge Salad a Day: Loading up on a colossal salad brimming with antioxidant-rich dark leafy greens, colorful bell peppers, and refreshing crisp cucumbers is an excellent way to stack your micronutrients while brightening your mealtime options.
- Add ample fat and protein when breaking the fast to start the day with a well-fueled tank to keep your hunger signals in check for the rest of the day. So no matter the number of meals you eat, you'll choose your meals from a mindful place aligned with your weight-loss goals.
- Redefine how you classify a meal: It's easy to eat an abundance of fat and calories in a dense serving when eating keto-friendly fare. High levels of fat help satiate quickly and with smaller portions, so a nutritionally substantial meal may look like a compact platter of nuts, cheese, and cured meats. Or you may find a nutrient-dense smoothie or shake, like our Keto Shake, serving as a filling yet light meal option that's perfect when there's no time to cook. Again, there are no hard-and-fast rules around the number of meals one needs to eat each day while following a keto diet. However, if you enjoy a colossal midday feast of healthy fats and moderate amounts of quality protein, you'll likely have little appetite for the remainder of the day without trying. Instead of placing too much emphasis on the number of meals you eat a day, focus on the following:
- Eat when you're hungry and only until satiated: Don't mistake getting most of your calories from dietary fats on keto as a mandate to eat huge portions. Enjoy your food to the point of feeling satisfied and save the rest for another sitting.
- Break the fast with quality fats and proteins, along with slow-digesting carbs, to begin the day with a balanced offering of macros to support optimal mental and physical performance.
- Don't skip meals, instead let your hunger lead when you eat, and ditch rigid rules in place of following your intuition.
- If you're feeling hungry often on keto, you likely need to increase your fat intake a bit. So add an extra dollop of grass-fed butter to your side of seared asparagus if you're constantly noshing all day; your waistline will thank you.
It's easier than you may realize to consume a meal's worth of calories in a serving that looks more like a snack when eating fattier fare. After all, fat has more than double the calories per gram as carbohydrates and proteins, at nine calories per gram versus four calories per gram, respectively.
But to get an idea of the number of calories to shoot for per meal, calculate the total number of calories you eat daily and then divide them into the number of meals you consume.
A range of 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day is usually sufficient for a typical adult woman, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. The average man requires between 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day to function correctly.
The noted caloric budgets mean 533 to 800 calories per meal for women if you go the classic route of eating three meals a day. Evenly parceled meals for a man would range between 667 to 1,000 calories per meal.
Eating one meal a day may work well for some, especially as you become fat-adapted and your body runs more efficiently on fat and ketones for extended periods without refueling. However, it's a wise choice to eat evenly-spaced meals if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Beyond minding carb intake and nixing sugar on the menu, the keto diet offers a lot of flexibility otherwise. When and how much you eat will vary vastly based on several personal factors, including your typical physical activity level. So, start with a calorie budget based on your current weight, how much you want to alter said weight—and by when—to determine the macros needed to achieve your wellness goals.
Tailor the frequency and amount of the portions you eat to your individual needs and goals. But, again, there's no real wrong way to go about spacing out meals unless you have a metabolic condition, like diabetes, that dictates otherwise.
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