Weight loss efforts often focus on what and how much food we eat. But it turns out we should also think about when calories go down our gullets. Based on dietary data from more than 50,000 adults, a recent study in The Journal of Nutrition reported that people who consumed their largest meal of the day at breakfast had a lower average body mass index than those who ate their most substantial meal at dinner, even when overall calorie count was similar. Taking in more calories at lunch than at dinner was also protective against an expanding waistline—as was extending the time between the day’s final food consumption and breakfast the next morning. It may be that front-loading calories earlier in the day reduces junk-food cravings and provides the advantage of a higher metabolic rate, so more of the calories consumed get burned off.
Another study (conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and published last year in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) suggests that consuming a larger number of calories later in the day when levels of the sleep hormone melatonin begin to spike can play a role in gaining body fat. So consider heeding the historical maxim: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”