Ask the Dietitian: If My Meals Are Too Close Together Will It Impact My Digestion?

Hi Dan, For years I have been obsessed with eating times - i.e. at least 4 hours between main meals, 2 hours between snacks - thinking that if I eat meals too close together it will impact my digestion. But is this something I should really worry about?

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The good news is I think you can let go of these restrictive eating windows and make things easier for yourself. Google your question and you'll find one website that says leaving hours between eating allows your body time to metabolically reset (whatever that means), and others that say small frequent meals “simplifies the work of the gut to digest and absorb vitamins and minerals from food”.

But, the truth is that it doesn’t really matter, and I can’t find any decent studies that support a minimum break between meals and snacks. There is research to suggest that eating at consistent times each day is important to help sync our biological clock, for example having lunch at 1 pm each day, but this is not the same as saying there are specific times that meals need to be spaced out by.

When to eat is personal. Find out what works best for you and what helps you eat healthier foods in the right quantities. Meal timing is simply a small part of a healthy and varied diet.

This leads me to why you have used the word “obsessed”. To be honest this is a red flag when it comes to food. Why do you find you are obsessed with eating times? I think you need to work on this and see if you can apply “obsessed” to any other aspects of your eating habits. If you can, are you able to work out why this might be?

Eating, for the most part, is an enjoyable experience. Yes, there are times when we are rushing out the door and just wolfing down food, or we see a certain meal as a chore, but for most of us, these meals are few and far between.

Obsession to me indicates a negative perception towards food and something that could lead to anxiety or distress. Each week see if you can release one of these controls that you have over food and see how you feel. Additionally, you could talk to a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian that specializes in eating behaviors and can help you on a personalized 1:1 basis.

I know I might sound a bit dramatic, but if anything you have just read resonates with you, give it some thought.


No it’s not something to worry about, but I would consider your relationship with food and why you feel “obsessed” about eating times.

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