The best time to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner if you want to lose weight

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Best times to eat to lose weight
All this time we've been so worried about exactly what we eat, carefully counting calories and weighing out portion sizes, reading up on different diets and downing as much fruit and veg as we can, that we forget to worry about when we were eating it!

Because, according to research, the time you eat could have a huge impact on your weight loss if you're a dieter.

Researchers have managed to pinpoint the exact times to eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner if you're slimming. They found that the best time to have your breakfast is just after 7am, 7.11am to be precise. It's better to get stuck into your lunch sooner rather than later between 12.30pm and 1pm, with 12.38pm the best time. And when it comes to dinner, the later you leave it the worse it can be for your diet - the optimum time for dinner is between 6pm and 6.30pm, 6.14pm preferably.

What's the harm of ignoring these guidelines, you might ask? But a recent study has shown that regularly sitting down to dinner after 8pm can add an extra two inches to your waist - that's the equivalent of two dress sizes for a woman.

The researchers suggest that the difference could be because we have evolved to use up energy during the day, so our mechanisms slow down as we get ready for sleep, reducing the rate at which we process food.

What about snacking?

Experts have also managed to pinpoint 'snack o' clock' - the times of the day when dieters are mostly likely to meet their downfall, with some consuming up to 750 additional calories at these points. 11.01am, 3.14pm and 9.31pm are the times when your willpower is most likely to fail you, so find activities to occupy your mind during these periods, or plan healthy snacks to keep you full into your schedule so you're not tempted by less nutritious options.

Lee Smith, managing director of Forza Supplements, who conducted the research, said: 'We are all becoming much more knowledgeable about nutrition and how to eat more healthily at traditional meal-times.

'It is at other vulnerable moments during the day - these snack o'clocks - when all the damage is done in diets.'

He also recommends avoiding coffee shops, as these are 'like sweet shops to a child - offering all sorts of seemingly innocuous pleasures like lattes which are the enemies of good diets', and opting out of the work tea round to avoid giving in to calorific accompaniments like biscuits.

What's the most important rule when it comes to losing weight?

Earlier research by Forza Supplements asked 1,000 dieters when their best time to eat for maximum weight loss was. A massive 76% said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, with an even bigger 84% of slimmers stating that sticking to set mealtimes is vital when it comes to shifting those pounds. 72% said not to exceed the calories they had at lunchtime at dinner, to keep the intake even throughout the day, and two thirds of those surveyed recommended eating dinner before 7pm, saying that eating your evening meal earlier maximises weight loss as people are less active in the evenings. (That sounds familiar, we're not sure how many calories it's possible to burn sitting on the sofa!)

Skipping meals - what's the harm?

It's also worth noting that six out of ten respondents in the Forza research said that weight loss would be even more difficult if meals were missed. An alarming number of people fall into the diet trap of thinking that more meals missed will mean more pounds lost, but this is a huge weight-loss myth.

If your body isn't getting food then it isn't getting nourishment, so it stores fat as your metabolism slows down to reserve energy. You could initially lose weight, but you will just end up eating more later on and putting all the weight back on. Three meals a day with healthy snacks in-between is still the optimum way to lose the pounds and keep them off too.

So what should a day's diet look like?

NHS recommends that for women wanting to lose weight, you should stick to an allowance of 1,400 calories a day. It's important to start the day off with a good breakfast (just after 7am), so try hitting 400 calories if you can. All of these tasty breakfast options are 400 cals or less!


 Blackcurrant bircher muesli: 395cals


Quick farmhouse fry-up: 221cals + 250ml glass of orange juice: 118cals = 339cals


Slimming World's muffins with smoked salmon: 295cals + Tall Starbucks cappuccino: 90cals = 385cals  

At lunchtime (between 12.30pm and 1pm) we'd recommend sticking to no more than 400 calories here too. You'll need a boost halfway through the day to get you through to dinner and it's important to give your body the nutrients and protein it needs. Opt for complex instead of refined carbohydrates such as those found in white pasta, rice and bread, so you stay fuller for longer and don't experience an energy drop a couple of hours after lunch.

Ainsley Harriott's chicken pasta with peas: 426cals


Spring vegetable tortilla: 390cals



Quick Quorn lunch bowl: 161cals + 1 wholemeal roll: 155cals = 316cals


Dinner (between 6pm and 6.30pm) can be fewer calories, so aim for around 300. You don't want to feel too full before bed so go sparingly on the carbohydrates and fill up on protein (especially that found in chicken which aids sleep) and vegetables.

Mellow-spiced chicken and chickpeas: 309cals 


Peppers with spicy turkey stuffing: 302cals



Split pea and vegetable curry: 300cals  

If you stick to 400 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch and 300 for dinner then you'll be able to treat yourself to two 100 calorie snacks throughout the day and still leave an extra 100 for any milk in tea and coffee throughout the day, and fruit too (there are 52 calories in a small apple, 53 in a pear, 59 in an orange and 89 in a banana).

You can pick two of any of these snacks under 100 calories, from jaffa cakes and a glass of wine, to yogurt and pretzels!

What do the experts say?

Forza Supplements' Lee Smith said 'The results show that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for successful dieters. Skipping it just makes you hungrier and more likely to over-indulge in later meals - causing a surge in blood sugar.'

Continued below...

And it seems that eating at regular times doesn't just have a positive effect on weight loss. Nutritional Therapist for Bio-Kult probiotic Natalie Lamb also suggests that eating at regular times of the day can also help with effective digestion and removal of waste, all important for the good health of your gut. She suggests that cutting down on our intake of sugary food can ward off unwanted bacteria and yeast, and that it's 'best to eat at regular times each day of the body naturally knows when to expect food and to produce the correct digestive enzymes.'

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This is some bizarre OCD eating disorder bull dookie.


I eat 1300-1400 calories for breakfast and I'm very lean......this is a bunch of flip flop


Amen! So true! You are 100% correct! Today, many health researchers are rediscovering that the human body is directly affected by the sunrise and sunset. The period in between is referred to as the photo-period. They have been finding that the big experiment of living by the clock, rather than by the sun, is not really best for any natural being. They are also reaching the same conclusion about the staying up late at night made possible by electrical lighting. There has always been a temptation to unnecessarily "burn the midnight oil." There are conflicts with nature which arise when one eats at the same hours by the clock. In North America in the winter there are only around 10 sixty minute hours of daylight, while in the summer there are around 15 sixty minute hours. If one is in the habit of eating supper at 6:00 p.m. each day, in winter said meal would be taken after sunset – a practice which is contrary to good health, as will be explained later. Where photo-periods are concerned, the natural process is still the same no matter what we eat – our digestion slows down significantly after the sun goes down, and doesn't quicken again until the sun rises. Those who eat a large meal near or after sundown will usually have the feeling that they are not yet finished digesting it when they rise in the morning, even though it may have been 8-12 hours since they ate. This feeling may last an hour or two after rising. This slow down in digestion is attributed to the increase of melatonin, which is a major factor in restful sleep. The large meals which are eaten near or after sundown never really get the full assimilation which is possible, and end up robbing the body of its fully refreshing sleep because the digestive system is still trying to do its major work during a time when it should be at rest. Yet when the same type of meal is eaten earlier in the day the body is wide awake and able to complete its work without interfering with the cycles of rest because of the activity of the day and the effects of the daylight. This one factor of eating large meals towards the end or after the daylight hours, alone, is the major reason why many people's biological clocks are on a 25 hour cycle, rather than on a 24 hour cycle. Forcing the body to try and digest a heavy meal during the time that its digestive processes are slowed due to the sun having gone down extends the actual time for the complete digestion of the food and the cycling and replenishing of the digestive juices, and ends up overlapping with the time when the breakfast is usually taken. Eating a large meal in the evening is also the reason why many people only desire a Continental type of breakfast (toast, donuts, or pastries, and coffee, tea, or juice) or a light fruit and cereal type of breakfast in the morning, and neglect the should-be-eaten hearty meal. Because of the late meal, they are not very hungry in the morning because they are still digesting the previous night's meal when they awake, but they are forced to eat something because of feeling a need for fresh energy. Thus they attempt to meet this need by the early morning snack of things usually containing sugar and carbohydrates (usually grains) which are converted into energy producing sugars in the body. This feeling of an immediate need for energy producing things in the morning comes from a lack of energy caused by a poor night's rest which was due to a working digestive tract, and by the need for more energy to finish the digestion of the unprocessed load in their system from the late meal. The practice of putting new food on top of that which is not finished digesting causes fermentation in the system and creates gases and toxins which injure the system and need to pass out of the body through the elimination organs – the skin, lungs, kidneys, liver, and bowels – thus unnecessarily burdening them, and causing unpleasant odors, gases, skin conditions, constipation, and other ailments. After taking a light breakfast or a Continental type of snack, those who have eaten large, late meals usually start feeling weak around midmorning, and either take some more coffee or tea, some sugar products, or a piece of fruit for a quick rush. They then eat a large lunch (as their first hearty meal) after eating a sparing breakfast and substitutes for real energy producing foods and usually find themselves sluggish later in the afternoon because the energy which should have already been available to the body is just then being produced, and is not really even put to good use during the most active time of the day. So those people drag around most every day wondering why they are so weak in physical and mental powers, even those who may be more conscientious in their food selections. The destructive practice of taking late meals is made worse by taking an early heavy breakfast. As the digestive system has not completed its work on the previous night's meal when another large meal it put in it, it is forced to work overtime without its necessary rest and rejuvenation time, thus robbing the system of more needed energy. This also tends to make one's mental and physical powers sluggish and dull in the early hours of the day. Then the early heavy breakfast is usually followed by an equally heavy lunch and similar supper. So not only is the system strained by all of the work involved in the continual processing of food, but the overabundance thereof is converted into fat or is passed along in a semi-digested state, thereby causing other maladies. Researchers have observed that when more food is taken only a few hours after eating something the food already in the first part of the intestines is ejected from there even though it has not yet gone through its full processing. As the body doesn't want to expel the contents of the intestines in a semi-digested state, the taking of more food before the previous amount is fully processed causes that previous mass to be impacted together with the mass which preceded it, thereby causing a stretching of the intestines, the creation of unwanted gases and toxins, and a delay in the normal elimination time (constipation). It simply makes sense that one should have as many eliminations as they have meals, but such is rarely the case when people eat three or more meals per day. Researchers have noted that when someone eats a piece of fudge only two hours after eating a meal, the elimination is pushed back four hours. If another piece is taken after just another two hours, the elimination is pushed back eight hours. And so the problem compounds exponentially. Eating a hearty breakfast of vegetables at the right time will provide the body with satisfaction and energy to do the work of the morning and early afternoon. Within just a few days of adopting the morning vegetable meal, a natural appetite will develop for this truly refreshing and sustaining diet.


I really haven't read anything so backwards in my whole life. I'd love to know the actual studies you're talking about that back up the info on this page, or are you just spouting "conventional wisdom." Let me give you the knowledge that I've gained by researching said studies on PubMed. Your metabolism does not slow down if you eat less often. Your cells' demand for energy is the same regardless of how much fuel you give it, given activity level is the same as well, so metabolism is largely unaffected. No one meal is more important than the rest if fat loss is your goal. Fat loss is not increased with more frequent smaller meals... only satiety is affected. WebMD even says that. They quote a University of Ottawa study that shows that splitting your daily food into 6 smaller meals has no weight loss advantages over 3 larger meals given that the caloric value is the same for total meals. Your body does not hold onto fat if you go into the dreaded "starvation mode" for short periods of time such as skipping a meal. All this goes against "conventional wisdom" but it's time that we start pushing back against all this weight loss propaganda that convinces us that we need to eat more to lose weight. Who am I. I'm a chiropractor in Savannah, GA who has been overweight much of his life until reading a book called Eat Stop Eat and researching all of the references to studies contained in the back of the book that support its claims.

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