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Eating (also known as consuming) is the ingestion of food, typically to provide a heterotrophic organism with energy and to allow for growth. Animals and other heterotrophs must eat in order to survive — carnivores eat other animals, herbivores eat plants, omnivores consume a mixture of both plant and animal matter, and detritivores eat detritus. Fungi digest organic matter outside of their bodies as opposed to animals that digest their food inside their bodies. For humans, eating is an activity of daily living. Some individuals may limit their amount of nutritional intake. This may be a result of a lifestyle choice, due to hunger or famine, as part of a diet or as religious fasting.
Eating practices among humans
Many homes have a large eating room or outside (in the tropics) kitchen area devoted to preparation of meals and food, and may have a dining room, dining hall, or another designated area for eating. Some trains have a dining car. Dishware, silverware, drinkware, and cookware come in a wide array of forms and sizes. Most societies also have restaurants, food courts, and food vendors so that people may eat when away from home, when lacking time to prepare food, or as a social occasion (dining club). At their highest level of sophistication, these places become "theatrical spectacles of global cosmopolitanism and myth." At picnics, potlucks, and food festivals, eating is in fact the primary purpose of a social gathering. At many social events, food and beverages are made available to attendees.
People usually have two or three meals a day regularly. Snacks of smaller amounts may be consumed between meals. Some propose not snacking, instead advocating three meals a day (of 600 kcal per meal) with four to six hours between. Having three well-balanced meals (thus half of the plate with vegetables, 1/4 protein food as meat, ... and 1/4 carbohydrates as pasta, rice, ...) will then account to some 1800–2000 kcal, which is the average requirement for a regular person.
The issue of healthy eating has long been an important concern to individuals and cultures. Among other practices, fasting, dieting, and vegetarianism are all techniques employed by individuals and encouraged by societies to increase longevity and health. Some religions promote vegetarianism, considering it wrong to consume animals. Leading nutritionists believe that instead of indulging oneself in three large meals each day, it is much healthier and easier on the metabolism to eat five smaller meals each day (e.g. better digestion, easier on the lower intestine to deposit wastes; whereas larger meals are tougher on the digestive tract and may call for the use of laxatives. However, psychiatrists with Yale Medical School have found that people who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and consume three meals per day weigh less than those who have meals that are more frequent. Eating can also be a way of making money (see competitive eating). In jurisdictions under sharia law, it may be proscribed for Muslim adults during the daylight hours of Ramadan.