Irregularity in eating patterns could be a potential cardiometabolic risk factor. We aimed to study the associations of irregular intake of energy at meals in relation to cardiometabolic risk factors 10 and 17 years later. Variability of energy intake data – derived from 5-d estimated diet diaries of cohort members of the National Survey for Health and Development collected at ages 36 (n 1416), 43 (n 1505) and 53 years (n 1381) – was used as a measure for irregularity. Associations between meal irregularity scores with cardiometabolic risk factors measured 10 and 17 years later were investigated using linear mixed models and logistic regression models. The results showed that irregularity scores changed significantly over the years (P<0·05). At age 36 years, subjects with a more irregular intake of energy at lunch (OR 1·42; 95 % CI 1·05, 1·91) and between meals (OR 1·35; 95 % CI 1·01, 1·82) had an increased risk for the metabolic syndrome 17 years later; at lunch was also associated with an increased waist circumference (OR 1·58; 95 % 1·27, 1·96) and TAG levels (OR 1·33; 95 % CI 1·02, 1·72). At age 43 years, subjects with a more irregular intake at breakfast had an increased risk of the metabolic syndrome 10 years later (OR 1·53; 95 % CI 1·15, 2·04), as well as an increased BMI (OR 1·66; 95 % CI 1·31, 2·10), waist circumference (OR 1·53; 95 % CI 1·23, 1·90) and diastolic blood pressure (OR 1·42; 95 % CI 1·13, 1·78). In conclusion, subjects with a more irregular intake of energy, mostly at breakfast and lunch, appeared to have an increased cardiometabolic risk 10 and 17 years later.