How Often Should You Eat?

Surprise! You don’t need to eat every three hours to stay healthy. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t.

Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
4-minute read
Episode #32

But for the vast majority of us, managing blood sugar levels is about avoiding the peaks, not the valleys. If you experience headaches, fatigue, and other discomfort whenever you go more than two or three hours without eating, the problem is probably not that your blood sugar has gotten too low, but that it’s been too high.

Eating a lot of sweets, sweetened beverages, white bread, and other refined carbohydrates will cause your blood sugar to go up very high, very quickly. What goes up, must come down and the higher the spike, the more uncomfortable the plunge. The easiest way to make that feeling go away is to eat again. But if you eat more of the same kinds of foods, you’re simply getting back on the same roller coaster. And that roller coaster is on a fast track to type 2 diabetes.

To get off this roller coaster, eat foods that contain less sugar and more fiber, protein, and fat. I’m talking about whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. For pasta, go al dente.  Your blood sugar levels will rise more slowly and gradually, making the decline far less dramatic. And you may find that you don’t need to eat every three hours in order to feel well.

A word about hunger

The biggest problem you are likely to experience is feeling hungry, and this is not as big a problem as many of us have led ourselves to believe. When you are used to always being in the fed state, you tend to panic the minute you notice that your stomach is empty.

In fact, feeling hungry is not a medical emergency. Often, if you simply wait 10 minutes, the feeling will go away. Sometimes simply having a cup of tea or a glass of water is all you'll need. Chewing gum is another great way to feel less hungry!  Allowing your stomach to be empty for an hour or two is really not that uncomfortable if you allow yourself to get used to the sensation. It’s also the perfect time to exercise. Exercising two or three hours after you eat will allow you to get the most out of your workout and, as a bonus, usually makes hunger pangs go away.

Please understand, I’m not advising you to stop eating or to starve yourself. I’m just saying going several hours without eating is not unhealthy. In fact, it can have some health benefits.


This is Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, with your quick and dirty tips for eating well and feeling fabulous.

These tips are provided for your information and entertainment and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, please work with your health professional to determine what’s right for you.

If you have a nutrition question for me or you’d like to find out about having me speak at your conference or event, send an e-mail to nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com or leave me a voice mail at 206-203-1438.  I can also be reached on Facebook and Twitter.

Have a great day and eat something good for me!


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Girl Eating image courtesy of Shutterstock