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  #1  
Old 06 July 2007, 04:24 PM
Malalaise
 
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Default Why 3 meals a day?

I was talking with my co-workers about different diets that advocate eating X numbers of meals a day,and all their reasons when we ended up wondering,who set the standard of eating 3 meals a day?Where did it start?

I have not been able to find a good reason from google,however I did find many nutritional sites that agree that there's real reason to have 3 meals a day.Such as this one

http://www.medical-library.net/sites...od_myth_5.html

I often wondered this myself as my current lifestyle has me doing to up to 4 or even 5 meals a day (note that my typical "meal" is just a sandwich from the cafeteria and something to snack on after)
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  #2  
Old 06 July 2007, 05:13 PM
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This is purely conjecture on my part - but I suspect that the custom is a holdover from the times when the vast majority of people lived agrarian lives of some sort.

If are a farmer or rancher or some variation of that, you have to get up very early in the day and start on very strenous chores. After a couple hours of that it's almost daybreak and you are pretty hungry and unable to do much more without some fuel.

So it's breakfast time - then time for more chores until it's mid day, it's hottest outside (in the summer) and breakfast is pretty much gone for the average person - about 3 to 4 hours, I imagine. So it's time for a break and the mid day meal.
(in the country they call this dinner, not lunch.)

Then it repeats, more work to do in the afternoon until it's time for the evening meal. People would have gone to bed much earlier than we do now, before the advent of tv and electric lights, so if they ate supper right after the end of the work day, they would probably have gone to sleep before they could get hungry for a late night snack again. (and they would have definitely had an appetite when they woke up the next day)

I don't know if people working this sort of work would have carried some sort of between meal snack with them most of the time, or if they had time to eat it - if they did, it would probably have been dried fruit or a leftover corn muffin stuffed in their pocket, something very quick and easily eaten out in the field not requiring any preparation. I would think that doing such hard work that they might need a snack, but when you are working with your hands, using them to feed yourself a snack means stopping work completely (unlike some other types of tasks which do lend themselves to accomplishing while eating) and some days you just don't have time for that. (which is why I don't snack, it's hard to have a paintbrush in one hand and a cookie in the other and I'm always trying to get done and get home as fast as possible)

I think that about 3 to 4 hours is probably the average amount of time that a person feels hungry again after a good meal, so the rather universal nature of the practicallity of a schedule like this made it pretty much standard in a lot of societies.

Not all societies have necessarily followed this schedule though if I remember correctly, I think that southern European or Mediterranean or tropical/hot climates might have a different sort of schedule that makes more sense with their climates and lifestyles. Some customs that differ from the three squares are not widely done in America. The Continental breakfast which properly means (so I've read) coffee, and *maybe* a roll - afternoon "tea" followed by a much later supper - the afternoon siesta that affects eating times - etc. I haven't lived overseas so I only have vague impressions of their customs from what people have mentioned in discussions about it.
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  #3  
Old 09 July 2007, 09:02 AM
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I grew up in central Europe, our meal times were strictly set and there was no such a thing as eating between. We had breakfast, morning tea, lunch (which was the main meal of the day = soup+main course+fruit) afternoon tea and light meal at night. Such things like lollies & chocolates were special occasion treats, only eaten at Christmas or birthdays etc. Cakes were a treat for some Sundays.
Nowadays I know people who "snack" almost continuously all day long. No wonder they have problem with their weight and associated health problems.
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  #4  
Old 09 July 2007, 09:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seraphina View Post
We had breakfast, morning tea, lunch (which was the main meal of the day = soup+main course+fruit) afternoon tea and light meal at night. Such things like lollies & chocolates were special occasion treats, only eaten at Christmas or birthdays etc. Cakes were a treat for some Sundays.

Were you hidden in our house somewhere?

We ate as a family, informal gathering at breakfast and an evening meal and late tea. The whole concept of three squares is social, if you live alone you'll notice you are less regimented in your food intake...
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  #5  
Old 10 July 2007, 01:21 AM
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I do two meals a day. Where do people find time, let alone appetite, to do more? Of course, when my son was young, I fed him 3 meals. I didn't want him going to school without fuel, and he was constantly hungry anyway. For myself, it's been two meals a day for as long as I can remember. I do eat breakfast, occasionally, just not when I first get up. I have to be awake for at least a couple hours, five is better, before I can eat.
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Old 10 July 2007, 06:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tagurit View Post
I do two meals a day. Where do people find time, let alone appetite, to do more? Of course, when my son was young, I fed him 3 meals. I didn't want him going to school without fuel, and he was constantly hungry anyway. For myself, it's been two meals a day for as long as I can remember. I do eat breakfast, occasionally, just not when I first get up. I have to be awake for at least a couple hours, five is better, before I can eat.
Two meals is all I can eat comfortably too. I usually end up eating a third though for social reasons.
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  #7  
Old 10 July 2007, 06:19 PM
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I personally get hungry at three points in the day, but whether that's because I've made my body accustomed to eating at those times, I don't know. I'm hungry in the mornings so I have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, then I get hungry at lunch time, then I'm hungry when I go home after work.
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  #8  
Old 10 July 2007, 06:23 PM
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Wow! I usually eat 4-6 meals a day. Never big ones though. Small ones every 3 hours or so.

Cereal for breakfast
Sandwich and a piece of fruit for lunch.
Fruit, veggie, or something else for a snack.
meat, veggie, and starch for dinner
another piece of fruit for after dinner.

It works out well because I am a shift worker, so I can easily slide my meal times around to avoid hunger at work. So, today I work 530-1030pm. I ate breakfast at 10am, a snack at 1:30, and I will eat dinner around 4:30 or so, followed up by food when I get home. The only real reason I eat after dinner is because we eat dinner at 6pm, and I'm up until midnight or later. Plus, I also exercise then, so I get hungry.

*ETA: The sandwiches I eat for lunch are small. I use small buns instead of two pieces of bread. They are probably equal to about half a sandwich if I used regular bread.
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Old 10 July 2007, 07:28 PM
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When I was single, I would purchase lunch, eat half of it for lunch, and take the other half home and have it for dinner, or just have soup or steamed veggies or something for dinner. Lunch was my main meal of the day.

Breakfast is two cups of coffee- I don't want solid food until I have been up for a few hours.

Unfortunately, Mr Moon is hungry as soon as he gets home from work, so I eat dinner with him, and I eat a lot more than I used to. So now I guess dinner is the main meal of the day. He wants an actual dinner- meat, veg, salad, starch. I end up with a bit of the meat and one of the sides, not all of them.

But, twice a day.
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Old 10 July 2007, 07:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seraphina View Post
Nowadays I know people who "snack" almost continuously all day long. No wonder they have problem with their weight and associated health problems.
My grazing habits are usually credited (by others) as why I stay so thin so easily. Something about how since I eat so frequently my body doesn't think it's necessary to store fat. Perhaps the difference is that I'm not snacking all day in addition to large meals, but rather in replacement of big meals? I just eat when I'm hungry.
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  #11  
Old 10 July 2007, 07:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seraphina View Post
Nowadays I know people who "snack" almost continuously all day long. No wonder they have problem with their weight and associated health problems.
Depends on the snack. Those snacking on fruits and vegetables are less likely to have any of those problems than, say, people who snack on fried lard sticks.
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Old 10 July 2007, 08:51 PM
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I eat like 11 times a day. There's breakfast, post-breakfast snack, pre-lunch snack, lunch, post lunch snack, dinner, post-dinner snack, second dinner, and midnight snack. Hmm...alright, 9 times a day, but I was close.
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Originally Posted by Canuckistan View Post
Depends on the snack. Those snacking on fruits and vegetables are less likely to have any of those problems than, say, people who snack on fried lard sticks.
Ewwww...you FRY your lard sticks??!?!?! Dude - that's just gross.
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  #13  
Old 10 July 2007, 08:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MapleLeaf View Post
I eat like 11 times a day. There's breakfast, post-breakfast snack, pre-lunch snack, lunch, post lunch snack, dinner, post-dinner snack, second dinner, and midnight snack. Hmm...alright, 9 times a day, but I was close. snip.


that sounds like my 15 y o DS

eat eat eat, all the time, and he's skinny as a rail.
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Old 10 July 2007, 09:05 PM
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One of the things I did to lose weight was to go from strictly 3 meals a day to eating whenever I want. I have a preset list of items to choose from, but I can eat them whenever I want. This usually translates to six meals (breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, evening snack). It's worked really well.
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Old 10 July 2007, 09:17 PM
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I guess I could be classified as another "grazer" who just eats small portions throughout the day. I've never felt comfortable eating a big meal in one sitting.

My father and his family tried to raise me to eat three large meals a day. If it was 12:00, it was time for lunch whether anyone was hungry or not. If it was 7:00, it was time for dinner. Having dinner after 8:00 was unheard of. I fought and argued a lot about this when I was growing up; even as a child I didn't see the point of eating unless I was hungry. Finally when I was about 12 I was allowed to make my own meals and allowed to eat whenever I wanted. However, I still get lectured that having a sandwich at 5:00 in the afternoon will "spoil my appetite" for dinner. My father doesn't understand that I eat what I want, when I want. I don't follow a set meal time. I also don't even make "meals" - the biggest meal I'll eat in one sitting might be pasta or rice & beans with vegetables on the side. And even then I end up having leftovers.

I don't eat much in one sitting; instead I eat small portions throughout the day whenever I get hungry.

I also don't (usually) eat breakfast because it makes me feel sick to force myself to eat when I'm not hungry. Instead I take a mid-morning break at work to eat. If I happen to be hungry when I get up, I'll eat, but if not I know I'll be hungry later in the day so I get something to eat then.
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Old 10 July 2007, 09:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canuckistan View Post
Depends on the snack. Those snacking on fruits and vegetables are less likely to have any of those problems than, say, people who snack on fried lard sticks.
True. I read a story about an anorexic girl once who actually ate all the time, but it was more or less just carrot sticks, chewed very slowly. Her fingers were perpetually orange from the carrot juice stains. She lost a lot of weight.

I generally eat three meals a day, but I will have a snack or two if I'm hungry. My work schedule prohibits the grazing way--though I would not enjoy it too much if I did it. I have a small breakfast, lunch, dinner, and occasionally a late evening snack. On weekends, the meals seem to come at very different times than during the week, and I tend to spread them out more and not have the late snack.

Avril
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  #17  
Old 10 July 2007, 10:18 PM
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I'm home with a baby, and since I stopped working, I've pretty much eaten 1)when I'm hungry, and 2)when I can manage it around the baby's schedule.

As for the OP-- I think the agrarian schedule probably has a lot to do with the "3 meals a day," especially the part about breaking at the hottest part of the day.

I think another factor is cooking time, though. When all food was prepared from scratch and cooked over a fire, preparing three meals could take all day; eg, if you started mixing the bread dough at dawn, waited for it to rise twice, before quick-rising yeast was invented, and kneaded it twice, it was ready in time for supper. Cooking meat for supper took a long time too, and when vegetables were fresh, they were picked in the morning for lunch and dinner.

This may explain why we eat some of the things we traditionally eat at meals, too. Leftover bread, or grain boiled quickly, and eggs collected first thing in the morning for breakfast, fresh fruit and vegetables and preserved meat for lunch, and cooked vegetables, beans, soups, bread and cooked meat for dinner. Also, sometimes lunch was what you could carry with you, which is why lunch is usually not cooked.

And even though people didn't understand the health aspects of washing dishes, they undestood that food tasted a heck of a lot better, and wooden dishes used by the peasantry didn't rot as quickly when they were cleaned regularly. When you add the time it takes to scrape your dishes after breakfast, and sometimes lunch, and the time it takes to wash them after dinner, three meals a day works out well.

Don't forget, to cook and wash, you need to haul water, too, and that adds a lot of time. And even if you could afford servants, that didn't make the water closer, or the meat cook and the dough rise faster.

Preparing as few meals a day as felt comfortable worked out to three, for most people. Two meals would be easier, but you'd feel a lot hungrier.

There's a biological factor, also. Adults need about 60 grams of protein a day, and your intestines can absorb about 20 grams at a time. If you tried to eat all your protein in one meal, you'd end up not digesting most of it, and be malnourished. 60 divided by 20 is 3.
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Old 10 July 2007, 10:49 PM
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RivkahChaya, those are some interesting and plausible points also.
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Old 10 July 2007, 11:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by annabohly View Post
that sounds like my 15 y o DS

eat eat eat, all the time, and he's skinny as a rail.
Sounds like mine. The same age. Since he came home he's eaten half a kilogramme of strawberries, two packets of crisps (which were his warm up for the main event) then almost an entire rotissirie chicken with a generous helping of vegetables. Two hours later he asked if there was any more chicken, in response to which I directed his attention to the pile of bones in the kitchen. I suppose a skilled surgeon might be able to scrape another half-ounce of flesh off of them. I informed him the kitchen is closed, then he ate a large bag of peanuts. This is a typical evenings intake (volume wise).

He's not particularly athletic, but he is skinny. Where does he put it?

It's not human I tell you, it's a stomach with legs.
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