Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Should breakfast be the new dinner?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 | 9:15 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

Have you heard that eating late at night is bad for you? While the bigger impact usually comes from the type of foods we tend to eat late at night more than when we eat them, there may be some benefits to adjusting when we eat.

Does meal time matter?
Many of us eat in a way that has our meals getting larger as the day goes on – lunch is bigger than breakfast and dinner is bigger than lunch. New research suggests that this may not be the best way to eat to maximize health. Our bodies seem to react better to larger meals eaten earlier in the day than ones eaten later. A few benefits to the earlier meals include better blood sugar control and better weight management. We may even burn more calories after meals eaten earlier in the day.

How does our body know what time it is?
Our internal clocks, influenced by external cues like sunlight or darkness, make up our circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms can influence when we sleep, our body temperature and other important bodily functions. Abnormal circadian rhythms have been connected to sleep problems and a variety of health issues including diabetes, obesity and depression. It also seems that circadian rhythms can help determine how we react to the food we eat.

Bottom Line
A larger breakfast and lunch, with a smaller dinner may be a better pattern for some people. Circadian rhythms have a genetic component, so we all likely react a little bit differently to meal times. If you find that you feel better, and are better able to achieve your health goals with swapping your larger meals to earlier in the day, it may be a good habit to adopt with almost no downside

1. Bo S, et al. Is the timing of caloric intake associated with variation in diet-induced thermogenesis and in the metabolic pattern? A randomized cross-over study. Int J Obes (Lond). 2015 Dec;39(12):1689-95
2. Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Available at:

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
March 2016


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