Counseling Sheet

Eating Between Meals

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

X-ray studies have been conducted to determine the emptying time of the normal stomach. Anything remaining in the stomach 5 hours after a test meal is abnormal. The stomach usually empties itself in 2.5 to 4 hours. Series of tests have been run in which persons have been given routine breakfasts consisting of cereal and cream, bread, cooked fruit, and an egg. These stomachs were X-rayed and found to be emptied, usually in less than 4.5 hours.

A few days later, these same persons were given the same type of breakfast. Two hours after breakfast, one had an ice cream cone. He was found to have a residue in his stomach after 6 hours. Another was given a peanut butter sandwich 2 hours after breakfast. He was found to have a residue after 9 hours. A third was given a piece of pumpkin pie and a glass of milk 2 hours after breakfast. He was observed to have a large amount of residue after 9 hours. The fourth was given a half slice of bread with butter 1.5 hours after breakfast, repeated every 1.5 hours thereafter, but no dinner. It was found that more than half of his breakfast was still in his stomach after 9 hours.

The fifth subject was given a routine breakfast at 8:00 A.M. Twice during the morning and twice during the afternoon a bite of chocolate candy was given. At 9:30 P.M., 13.5 hours after breakfast, more than one-half of the morning meal was still in the stomach.

It has been found that even a little bit of nibbling delays digestion to the extent that 11 hours after breakfast there is still a large residue left in the stomach. This sort of routine insults the human mechanism, destroys its normal function, and lessens the efficiency of mind, body, and emotions. Many of the chemicals produced during partial digestion are toxic, such as aldehydes, alcohols, amines, and esters. These cause an intoxication of brain, liver, kidneys, and other delicate tissues.

Probably, the key to regularity in eating lies in having a good breakfast. When the morning meal is omitted, one tends to become hungry before noon and resorts to a snack. The snack slackens the appetite for lunch, less is eaten; but before long, hunger returns. Snacking in the afternoon seems to be the logical solution. There is no desire for food at 6:00 P.M., so dinner is delayed until later. Then, there may be more snacking before retiring. At bedtime, much food remains only partially digested to prevent the digestive organs from benefiting from the sleep. One arises, having the sleep of the drugged, but is still unrefreshed.

The best routine is to eat breakfast within 3 hours of arising, wait at least 5 hours (preferable 6 to 7) before having lunch. Again, wait 5 hours before supper, and have a light supper of fruit and grains, taken several hours before bedtime. If at all possible, the third meal, even though only of fruit and grains, should be omitted entirely. It may take several months (up to 6) to develop the habit of omitting the evening meal. Those who have the stamina to persist will find it a great benefit to the life to have the extra strength which would be expended in digesting the third meal.


Garnsey, Charles E., "Eating Between Meals: What the X-ray Shows," Life and Health, April 1924, pp. 56-57.

Haysner, C. A., N.D. and Julius Matson, R.N., "Effect of Eating Between Meals on the Emptying Time of the Stomach," Life and Health, September 1931, pp. 130-131.

Johnson, Gilbert, M.D., "Shall We Eat Between Meals?" Life and Health, September 1936, pp. 10-11, 24.

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