Counsels on Diet and Foods


Chapter 9—Regularity in Eating

Part 1—Number of Meals

Rest Needed by the Stomach

267. The stomach must have careful attention. It must not be kept in continual operation. Give this misused and much-abused organ some peace and quiet and rest. After the stomach has done its work for one meal, do not crowd more work upon it before it has had a chance to rest and before a sufficient supply of gastric juice is provided by nature to care for more food. Five hours at least should elapse between each meal, and always bear in mind that if you would give it a trial, you would find that two meals are better than three.—Letter 73a, 1896 CD 173.1

Eat a Substantial Breakfast

268. It is the custom and order of society to take a slight breakfast. But this is not the best way to treat the stomach. At breakfast time the stomach is in a better condition to take care of more food than at the second or third meal of the day. The habit of eating a sparing breakfast and a large dinner is wrong. Make your breakfast correspond more nearly to the heartiest meal of the day.—Letter 3, 1884 CD 173.2

Late Suppers

269. For persons of sedentary habits, late suppers are particularly harmful. With them the disturbance created is often the beginning of disease that ends in death. CD 173.3

In many cases the faintness that leads to a desire for food is felt because the digestive organs have been too severely taxed during the day. After disposing of one meal, the digestive organs need rest. At least five or six hours should intervene between the meals; and most persons who give the plan a trial, will find that two meals a day are better than three.—The Ministry of Healing, 304, 1905 CD 173.4

270. Many indulge in the pernicious habit of eating just before sleeping hours. They may have taken three regular meals; yet because they feel a sense of faintness, as though hungry, will eat a lunch or fourth meal. By indulging this wrong practice, it has become a habit, and they feel as though they could not sleep without taking a lunch before retiring. In many cases, the cause of this faintness is because the digestive organs have been already too severely taxed through the day in disposing of unwholesome food forced upon the stomach too frequently, and in too great quantities. The digestive organs thus taxed become weary, and need a period of entire rest from labor to recover their exhausted energies. A second meal should never be eaten until the stomach has had time to rest from the labor of digesting the preceding meal. If a third meal be eaten at all, it should be light, and several hours before going to bed. CD 174.1

But with many, the poor, tired stomach may complain of weariness in vain. More food is forced upon it, which sets the digestive organs in motion, again to perform the same round of labor through the sleeping hours. The sleep of such is generally disturbed with unpleasant dreams, and in the morning they awake unrefreshed. There is a sense of languor and loss of appetite. A lack of energy is felt through the entire system. In a short time the digestive organs are worn out, for they have had no time to rest. These become miserable dyspeptics, and wonder what has made them so. The cause has brought the sure result. If this practice be indulged in a great length of time, the health will become seriously impaired. The blood becomes impure, the complexion sallow, and eruptions will frequently appear. You will often hear complaints from such, of frequent pains and soreness in the region of the stomach, and while performing labor, the stomach becomes so tired that they are obliged to desist from work, and rest. They seem to be at loss to account for this state of things; for, setting this aside, they are apparently healthy.—How to Live 1:55-57, 1865. CD 174.2

The Cause and Cure of that All-Gone Feeling

Those who are changing from three meals a day, to two, will at first be troubled more or less with faintness, especially about the time they have been in the habit of eating their third meal. But if they persevere for a short time, this faintness will disappear. CD 175.1

The stomach, when we lie down to rest, should have its work all done, that it may enjoy rest, as well as other portions of the body. The work of digestion should not be carried on through any period of the sleeping hours. After the stomach, which has been overtaxed, has performed its task, it becomes exhausted, which causes faintness. Here many are deceived, and think that it is the want of food which produces such feelings, and without giving the stomach time to rest, they take more food, which for the time removes the faintness. And the more the appetite is indulged, the more will be its clamors for gratification. This faintness is generally the result of meat eating, and eating frequently, and too much. The stomach becomes weary by being kept constantly at work, disposing of food not the most healthful. Having no time for rest, the digestive organs become enfeebled, hence the sense of “goneness,” and desire for frequent eating. The remedy such require, is to eat less frequently and less liberally, and be satisfied with plain, simple food, eating twice, or, at most, three times a day. The stomach must have its regular periods for labor and rest; hence eating irregularly and between meals, is a most pernicious violation of the laws of health. With regular habits, and proper food, the stomach will gradually recover. CD 175.2

271. The stomach may be so educated as to desire food eight times a day, and feel faint if it is not supplied. But this is no argument in favor of so frequent eating.—The Review and Herald, May 8, 1883 CD 175.3

[Awaking with Impure Breath and Furred Tongue—245]

The Two-Meal Plan

272. In most cases, two meals a day are preferable to three. Supper, when taken at an early hour, interferes with the digestion of the previous meal. When taken later, it is not itself digested before bedtime. Thus the stomach fails of securing proper rest. The sleep is disturbed, the brain and nerves are wearied, the appetite for breakfast is impaired, the whole system is unrefreshed, and is unready for the day's duties.—Education, 205, 1903 CD 176.1

[Two-Meal Plan for Children—343, 344]

273. The practice of eating but two meals a day is generally found a benefit to health; yet under some circumstances, persons may require a third meal. This should, however, if taken at all, be very light, and of food most easily digested. Crackers—the English biscuit—or zwieback, and fruit, or cereal coffee, are the foods best suited for the evening meal.—The Ministry of Healing, 321, 1905 CD 176.2

274. Most people enjoy better health while eating two meals a day than three; others, under their existing circumstances, may require something to eat at suppertime; but this meal should be very light. Let no one think himself a criterion for all,—that every one must do exactly as he does. CD 176.3

Never cheat the stomach out of that which health demands, and never abuse it by placing upon it a load which it should not bear. Cultivate self-control. Restrain appetite; keep it under the control of reason. Do not feel it necessary to load down your table with unhealthful food when you have visitors. The health of your family and the influence upon your children should be considered, as well as the habits and tastes of your guests.—[Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 58] Counsels on Health, 156, 1890 CD 176.4

275. To some it is a temptation too strong to be resisted to see others eat the third meal, and they imagine they are hungry, when the feeling is not a call of the stomach for food, but a desire of the mind that has not been fortified with firm principle, and disciplined to self-denial.—Testimonies for the Church 4:574, 1881 CD 176.5

[For context see—260]

As a Remedy for Irritability

276. The course of Brother H has not been what it should have been. His likes and dislikes are very strong and he has not kept his own feelings under the control of reason. Brother H, your health is greatly injured by over-eating, and eating at improper times. This causes a determination of blood to the brain. The mind becomes confused, and you have not the proper control of yourself. You appear like a man whose mind is unbalanced. You make strong moves, are easily irritated, and view things in an exaggerated and perverted light. Plenty of exercise in the open air, and an abstemious diet, are essential to your health. You should not eat more than two meals a day. If you feel that you must eat at night, take a drink of cold water, and in the morning you will feel much better for not having eaten.—Testimonies for the Church 4:501, 502, 1880 CD 177.1

None to Be Forced to Discard Their Third Meal

277. With regard to the diet question, this matter must be handled with such wisdom that no overbearing will appear. It should be shown that to eat two meals is far better for the health than to eat three. But there must be no authoritative forcing seen. No one connected with the sanitarium should be compelled to adopt the two-meal system. Persuasion is more appropriate than force.... CD 177.2

The days are now growing shorter, and it will be a good time to present this matter. As the days shorten, let dinner be a little later, and then the third meal will not be felt necessary.—Letter 145, 1901 CD 177.3

278. In regard to the third meal, do not make eating but two meals compulsory. Some do best healthwise when eating three light meals, and when they are restricted to two, they feel the change severely.—Letter 200, 1902 CD 178.1

[Possibility of Harm through Discarding Third Meal at Our Sanitariums—424]

Not to Be a Test

279. I eat only two meals a day. But I do not think that the number of meals should be made a test. If there are those who are better in health when eating three meals, it is their privilege to have three. I choose two meals. For thirty-five years I have practiced the two-meal system.—Letter 30, 1903 CD 178.2

Objectionable Results of Enforcing the Two-Meal Plan in Training Schools

280. The impression is upon many minds that the diet question is being carried to extremes. When students combine physical and mental taxation, so largely as they do at this school (Avondale), the objection to the third meal is to a great extent removed. Then no one needs to feel abused. Those who conscientiously eat only two meals need not change in this at all.... CD 178.3

The fact that some, teachers and students, have the privilege of eating in their rooms, is not creating a healthful influence. There must be harmonious action in the conducting of meals. If those who only eat two meals have the idea that they must eat enough at the second meal to answer for the third meal also, they will injure their digestive organs. Let the students have the third meal, prepared without vegetables, but with simple, wholesome food, such as fruit and bread.—Letter 141, 1899 CD 178.4

[For Ministers Two Meals More Conducive to Physical and Spiritual Health—227]

[Two-meal plan followed by E. G. White—Appendix 1:4, 5, 20, 22, 23]

[Mrs. White's Table Set Twice A Day—27]