Our Routines May Not Fit 3 Meals a Day Anymore

Experts say not to worry about changes in our pre-pandemic eating patterns
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2021 7:20 PM CST
'Big Meal' Can Replace 3 Squares a Day—With Snacks
During the pandemic, some people are trying different eating schedules.   (Getty/AndreyPopov)

The three-meals-a-day habit is fully engrained. But it may not suit us anymore, Amanda Mull writes in the Atlantic. People working at home during the pandemic have less reason to eat when the clock tells them to, and some are finding themselves less committed to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our customary eating schedule never was the law, anyway; it came about when industrialization pulled people out of their homes and put them on a set workday schedule, a food historian says. Before that, people were on "more like a two-meal kind of schedule that was based on outdoor physical labor and farm labor, and those meals tended to be quite big," she said. Breakfasts later became small and less than nutritionally robust—cereal, for example—so people had to eat again to make it through their workday. Then it was time for a sit-down dinner, central to family life.

People have adapted during the pandemic. Some put together meals of snacks to avoid cooking and cleanup. People are figuring out new meal schedules or eating when they're hungry instead of when it's time. Mull has settled on what she calls "Big Meal." It doesn't fit any of the previous boxes. Sometimes it's eaten at what used to be the breakfast hour, and sometimes it's at what was the dinner hour, but it can be at any time in between. It's once a day, usually late afternoon. Around her Big Meal, Mull snacks if she's hungry. Such changes shouldn't be cause for worry, a dietitian says—including weight gain and loss, as well as eating more or less than usual. That happens, she said. "We’re really not taught that we can trust our body's cues,” she said. "It can feel so destabilizing to have to think about them for maybe the first time ever." (You can read the full piece here.)

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