Go big at breakfast: Larger dinners linked to higher calorie intake, worse diet

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COLERAINE, Northern Ireland — If you tend to eat a small breakfast in anticipation of a big dinner, a new study finds you may be taking the wrong approach to eating. A new set of research finds there is a link between eating most of one’s calories in the evening and a higher overall calorie intake/poorer diet in general.

Researchers at Ulster University, led by Judith Baird, examined a group of 1177 adults (between the ages of 19 and 64), originally tracked as part of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey. That project tracks a different group of 1,000 British citizens’ eating and nutrition habits each year. For this study, though, the research team only focused on data covering 2012-2017.

Participants were separated into four equal groups based on the total calories they typically ate after six o’clock at night. For example, the lowest group only ate about 31% of their calories in the evening, while the highest group usually ate 49% of their daily calories around that time. Meanwhile, diet quality among participants was gauged using the Nutrient Rich Food Index via food diaries.

Generally, across all four groups, people get about 40% of their daily energy intake from evening eating. However, there are a number of differences between the groups as well. Participants eating the least in the evening usually consume the lowest number of total daily calories across all groups.

Similarly, participants eating the most in the evening also had the worst diets from a nutritional perspective.

If you consume most of your calories at dinner, it may be time to rethink your eating habits

“Our results suggest that consuming a lower proportion of EI in the evening may be associated with a lower daily energy intake, while consuming a greater proportion of energy intake in the evening may be associated with a lower diet quality score,” researchers say in a statement.

“Timing of energy intake may be an important modifiable behavior to consider in future nutritional interventions. Further analysis is now needed to examine whether the distribution of energy intake and/or the types of food consumed in the evening are associated with measures of body composition and cardiometabolic health,” they conclude.

Most people tend to feel hungrier in the evening than in the morning or afternoon, but this study makes a compelling argument to hold out until tomorrow morning’s breakfast.

This research was presented at the 2020 European and International Conference on Obesity.

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