Circadian and diurnal rhythms affect food intake, and earlier research has suggested that meal sizes increase, whereas the after-meal intervals and satiety ratios decrease over the day. We hypothesized that the time of day of food intake would be related to total intake such that intake early in the day would tend to reduce overall intake, whereas intake later in the day would tend to increase intake over the entire day. The intakes of 375 male and 492 female free-living individuals, previously obtained via 7-d diet diaries, were reanalyzed. The total and meal intakes of food energy, the amounts of the macronutrients ingested and the density of intake occurring during five 4-h periods (0600-0959, 1000-1359, 1400-1759, 1800-2159 and 2200-0159 h) were identified and related to overall and meal intakes during the entire day. The proportion of intake in the morning was negatively correlated with overall intake (r=-0.13, P<0.01), whereas the proportion ingested late in the evening was positively correlated with overall intake (r=0.14, P<0.01). The energy densities of intake during all periods of the day were positively related to overall intake (range, r=0.13-0.23, P<0.01). The results suggest that low energy density intake during any portion of the day can reduce overall intake, that intake in the morning is particularly satiating and can reduce the total amount ingested for the day, and that intake in the late night lacks satiating value and can result in greater overall daily intake.