Eating frequency may be important in the development of overweight and obesity and other cardiometabolic risk factors; however, the evidence is inconsistent. The aim of the present study was to examine the associations between the number of eating occasions and cardiometabolic risk factors in a national population-based sample of young adults. A cohort of 1273 men and 1502 women, aged 26–36 years, completed a meal pattern chart to record when they had eaten during the previous day (in hourly intervals). The total number of eating occasions was calculated. Diet quality was assessed, waist circumference was measured and a fasting blood sample was taken. Dietary intake was compared with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. The associations between the number of eating occasions and cardiometabolic risk factors were calculated using linear regression. Analyses were adjusted for age, education and physical activity. Most men ate three to five times per d and most women ate four to six times. The proportion of participants meeting dietary recommendations increased with the number of eating occasions. For men, an additional eating occasion was associated with reductions in mean values for waist circumference ( − 0·75 cm), fasting glucose ( − 0·02 mmol/l), fasting insulin ( − 0·34 mU/l; 2·04 pmol/l), TAG ( − 0·03 mmol/l), total cholesterol ( − 0·08 mmol/l) and LDL-cholesterol ( − 0·06 mmol/l). Adjustment for waist circumference attenuated the results. Significant trends were not observed for women. In conclusion, a higher number of eating occasions were associated with reduced cardiometabolic risk factors in men. Many associations were mediated by waist circumference.