Eating more often than three meals a day does not assist with weight loss, new Australian research suggests.

The study found no difference in weight, waist measurement, body fatness or blood sugar levels between people who ate three meals a day, and those who ate three meals and three snacks while trying to lose weight.

'There seems to be little benefit to changing how often or how regularly you eat if you're trying to lose weight. Many people find it hard enough to stick to a healthy eating plan to lose weight, let alone worrying about any suggested benefits of snacking or not snacking.

'It's not when you eat that matters, but what and how much you eat,' said lead author and Accredited Practising Dietitian Michelle Palmer.

Ms Palmer will present her findings at the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) national conference at the Gold Coast this week.

The study involved 179 obese men and women who were all on a standard kilojoule-reduced diet, but with differing eating patterns.

According to Australia's last national nutrition survey, around 56 per cent of adults report to eat between twice to four times a day, while 37 per cent eat five to seven times daily.

Ms Palmer said dieters need to focus on eating fewer kilojoules, especially when it came to snack choices, and that portion control was the key.

'A 60g chocolate bar has as many kilojoules as four medium apples, the kilojoules in a large muffin are equal to four cups of carrot sticks, and a 50g packet of potato crisps has the same kilojoules as nine cups of air-popped popcorn.

'Manufactured snack foods can be high in saturated fat, salt, sugar and kilojoules, but low in nutrients like vitamins and minerals, and fibre - which keeps us full,' said Ms Palmer. Ms Palmer recommends planning snacks with small portions in mind. And she said time-pressed nibblers should consider nutritious, quick and filling snacks like raisin toast or crumpets, a handful of unsalted nuts, crackers with low-fat cheese, a tub of yogurt or a piece of fruit, or a bowl of cereal with reduced-fat milk.

The DAA 26th national conference will be held from May 29 - 31 at Conrad Jupiters at the Gold Coast. The conference is titled 'Improving nutrition - a social responsibility'.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) is the professional body representing dietitians nationally. Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is the only national credential recognised by the Australian Government, Medicare, the Department of Veterans Affairs and most private health funds as the quality standard for nutrition and dietetics services in Australia. For more information visit http://www.daa.asn.au

Background information

- Karen Struthers MP Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health (Queensland) will open the conference on Thursday, May 29 at 9am.

Dietitians Association of Australia