More But Smaller Meals Increase The Efficiency

Thus can be expressed the slogan which comes out of the valuable research of Dr. Howard W. Haggard and Dr. Leon A. Greenberg, of Yale.

Why do we have three meals a day? Is there any scientific basis for such an arrangement? Why is breakfast a light meal, and supper a heavy meal?

And why, oh! why, I ask, and ask in vain, do I have to eat my evening meal at half past six, whether I am hungry or not?

That is what I asked in vain until Drs. Haggard and Greenberg came along with a very sensible explanation. “In most American households the evening dinner is eaten fairly early: otherwise someone would have to work late to wash the dishes.”

As I remember it a higher Power has been explaining that to me for years; but it was the authority of the Printed Word that convinced me.

Breakfast is a light meal, on the same authority, because an elaborate breakfast requires that someone should get up early and prepare it.


Just before breakfast respiratory quotient and muscular efficiency are at a very low level. (Here I am abstracting the report.) After a meal, depending on the amount, they fall to the before breakfast level in two and one-half to four hours. The respiratory quotient (amount of oxygen consumed and of carbon dioxide given off in the breath) and blood sugar as a test for the muscular efficiency are the measurements of general body efficiency.

“Study of a large group of subjects has shown that on a regimen of two meals a day muscular efficiency is above the before breakfast level for only a little more than two hours out of the entire working day . . . on one of five meals a day for seven hours.”

For maximum efficiency, these investigators believe, five meals a day is indicated. The three regular meals should be supplemented by two smaller meals—mid-morning and mid-afternoon lunches. But the total amount of food for the day should remain the same; the two lunches should not be added, but subtracted, from the other meals.

All this is in accord with what these articles have emphasized in any case—that the timing and quantity of meals are just as important in dietetics as the quality of the food. But our guesses did not have, until now, any experimental confirmation.

The question is whether such a rearrangement as Drs. Haggard and Greenberg suggest can be, or at least will be, practical in the established routine of our life.

But perhaps it needn’t be quite so revolutionary as to require any great upheaval. Many working people leave the office and get a soft drink at a fairly regular time in the middle of the morning. A soft drink stands for any drink with plenty of sugar in it. Or sneak a piece of candy. And I seem to remember seeing crowds around the soda fountain at about 3.30 P. M. These impulses are conditional not so much by hunger as fatigue. Hunger is a poor guide for this.

The problem which confronts factory heads is to introduce this efficiency increase into their field.