Tips on Snacking

As if learning what to eat was not confusing enough at times; now we are also left to ponder how often we should be eating and if we should be eating between meals?

Snacking has certainly become a big topic of debate. One group of nutritionist are on the “pro” snaking side, saying snacking helps to regulate sugar levels and prevent extreme hunger cravings. While the other group, who are on the 3 meals a day and no snaking side, claim that snacking just leads to extra calories consumed and does not give the stomach enough rest time. Not to mention, a third camp has immerged, the intermitted fasting group, who report eating 1-2 meals is actually best. With all this contradicting advice, the topic of snacking has certainly become confusing.

You may be asking yourself questions such as; does snacking help me drop or gain pounds? Does it boost metabolism and provide energy for my body to function well? Is it healthy to eat the store-bought snacks? Should I have a snack before sleep or not?

In this article we will bust some snacking myths and provide tips on healthy snacking.

Common Snaking Mistakes

1. Snacking between the three main meals in a must

Who said it? There’s no scientifically proven fact that people must snack between the meals. While for some people snacking is an effective way to keep the metabolic rate high, increase energy, manage blood sugar, and get enough vitamins and minerals, for others it’s simply a way to eat more calories.

If you have three big meals during the day that satisfy you, you probably not need a snack at all. In fact it known that it takes the stomach 3 hours to get into self cleaning mode so if you are eating every few hours you are not giving you stomach and intestines any time to rest and clear themselves of digested food. This proves troublesome for people who have conditions such as IBS, bloating, constipation, GERD, or other digestive disorders.

However, if you suffer from an underlying health condition – for instance, diabetes or hypoglycemia – you may need to have snacks to maintain blood sugar.

2. Picking the wrong snacks

What can be easier than grabbing some delicious on-the-go snacks in the nearest store? A busy lifestyle combined with not reading labels can make it easy to fall victim to marketing and grab what may seem like a healthy snack. Other times we let our hunger get so big we end up just grabbing whatever sounds “healthy” or “tasty,” like those chocolate chip cookies in the lunch room. If your snack doesn’t give you a balance of fiber, protein, and healthy fat, chances are you’re simply eating empty calories.

3. Listening to the clock rather than the body

“Gosh, it’s already 3 pm, I gotta have my snack!” Does it sound familiar to you? If you are watching the clock instead of listening to your body’s signals you maybe eating out of boredom rather than hunger. There’s no point in having those veggie sticks with hummus or chocolate cookies when you’re not hungry.

4. Skipping H2O

Confusing the terms “thirst” and “hunger” is a common problem that we all encounter from time to time. For many people, drinking a glass of water before eating helps to satiate their hunger without actually eating that snack. Drinking water during the day has been shown to prevent the hunger pangs and overeating.

5. Munching on too big snacks

Speaking of overeating, a snack isn’t a full-fledged meal. Even though it should be satisfying, don’t eat too much of it. If you’re not careful with your snacks you can easily ended up consuming an extra 300-500 calories. The recommended amount for a snack is 180 calories and 13 to 16 grams of fat, such as a handful of almonds or a yogurt.

6. Snacking at night

Noshing late in the evening isn’t only the terrible news for your waistline, but for your sleep quality as well. Even a healthy snack can boost your blood sugar, increasing your risk of experiencing a blood sugar crash during sleep. If you struggle with a number of chronic sleep issues, check your snacking habits first. Sometimes, stress isn’t the major culprit.

7. Having a liquid snack

Sodas, lattes, smoothies, and other beverages may not seem like a snack, but a nutrient-dense liquid can become the one. The problem with the liquid snacks like smoothies or caramel lattes is that they’re often packed with sugar, fats, and empty calories.

Snacking Tips 

Erratic snacking wreaked havoc on the body. Consider these tips to practice mindful snacking.

 1. Take on fuel when you need it

When your main meal doesn’t provide your body with the right amount of nutrients and calories, you might quickly start feeling sluggish, tired, and hungry. Undereating leads to low energy and health problems, so if you feel like you’re about to stop right in the middle of the road (think of your car here), snack on a nutrient packed food to fuel your body. I typically opt for avocado toast, mini quinoa salad bowl, or handful of nuts.

2. Handle the hunger pangs before they strike

If you are someone who experiences intense hunger attacks, you maybe satisfyingly those pangs with fast food or other store bought snacks like a bag of potato chips or package of cookies. Snacks that are easy to get your hands on, but high in sugar, calories, and fats. You may also find your hunger so intense that your snack turned into a whole meal and then may try to skip dinner to make up for the extra snack binge.

This chaos can be caused by the wrong meal choices. The stomach generally takes 3 to 4 hours to empty after a main meal, but if you fill it with unhealthy stuff and empty calories, you’re more likely to feel hungry in an hour or two. Handle the hunger pangs before they strike by loading your main meals with nutrient-dense foods, which are also high in healthy fats, antioxidants, and protein.

3. Keep the blood sugar in check

If your meal is chock full of sugar or starch, you may experience low blood sugar right after eating. The glucose swings make you feel incredibly hungry and sluggish at the same time. If you suffer from hypoglycemia, glucose swings – if ignored – cause nausea and headaches. To keep blood sugar in check, try eating several carrot sticks or apple slices 2 hours after eating a meal. Also, try to avoid sugary treats that make glucose swings even more frequent.

4. Give the stomach enough time to empty

The blood sugar balance and digestive system crave the breaks between meals to function properly. If you snack all day long – you know, a handful of almonds now and some vegetable stick a minute later – you don’t let your stomach empty. Daylong grazing keeps the calorie intake high, adding pounds to the body. Moreover, it ruins your eating meal plan and schedule. If your dinner is 5-6 hours away, have a small snack to hold you over, but don’t overdo it!

5. Ditch emotional snacking

When emotions are high, it can be hard to stop yourself from munching down a full container of vanilla ice cream or bag of chips. Noshing calms people down in the moment due to the release of sugar, this only works for a very short while and once the sugar crash occurs you often feel even worse.

When feeling sad, depressed, angry, or bored, try going for a walk around the block, play with your pet, call a friend, try practicing yoga, etc. Try to distract yourself from food and stay away from the kitchen or try reaching for a glass of water instead. It’s hard to ditch emotional snacking, so experiment what works best for you.

6. Switch off the phone

Whether going to eat a meal or have a snack, I try to stay away from the TV and smartphone, especially social media. Snacking mindfully is as important as eating mindfully, so learn to focus on what you’re snacking on. Also, try to snack alone since it’s easy to lose a track of time and miss your body’s signals when you eat and chat with your colleagues or friends. 

7. Pack nutritious snacks wherever you go

Not only can you save money on those pricey store-bought treats, but packing your own healthy snacks will improve your waist line and health.

8. Skip the snacks that start with the word “sugar”

When you’re on the go, carrying a lunchbox may not be an option. Convenient snacks are everywhere, but before you buy the one, take your time to read the label – at least the first 3 to 5 ingredients. If you see the word “sugar” among them – especially if it’s first – leave it where you took it. The same goes for sodium (salt) and the ingredients that you can’t even spell.

9. Have a glass of water before snacking

Staying hydrated can help reduce overeating and prevent us from confusing thirst with hunger. If bored of plain water, a lemon slice can give your beverage enough of a kick to stop that sweet tooth and/or hold you to your next meal.

Healthy and Nutritious Snacks

If you’re just starting your healthy snacking journey, you might have no idea what to put in your lunchbox. Here are some of my snack ideas that you’ll love:

1. Hard-boiled egg

One hard-boiled egg provides the body with 5 to 6 grams of protein and contains about 70 calories, making it a healthy and energy-boosting snack to beat the afternoon slump. If you don’t like the yolks or you’re on a diet, make low-fat hummus deviled eggs. Cut a hard-boiled egg in half and remove the yolks. Add a teaspoon of homemade hummus to each half and enjoy a tasty snack.

2. Protein trail mix

Mix 2 cups air-popped popcorn, 2 tablespoons roasted nuts of your choice, and 2 tablespoons roasted edamame. You’ll get a protein snack that you can eat on the go.

3. Cream cheese celery stalks

Spread a tablespoon low-fat cream cheese on 2 to 3 celery stalks and enjoy!

4. Mini avocado tea sandwiches

Toast a slice of the whole-grain bread, top with thinly sliced avocado (or mashed avocado with ½ teaspoon olive oil) and cut into tiny triangles. I love to nosh them with a cup of black tea.

5. Apple and peanut butter

The classic snack that will never go out of the food style, apple and peanut butter are both excellent sources of protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Almond butter is a great alternative, if you’re allergic to peanuts.

6. Greek yogurt with jam or berries

Greek yogurt helps to fill the nutritional gaps in a jiff. But since I don’t like the taste of the plain yogurt, I usually mix it with fresh berries or a teaspoon of peach jam.

Snacking isn’t an art, but an individual preference. Choose to eat whole foods for your snack times to ward off hunger attacks and keep you from frequent lows and highs in your blood sugar. Remember, what you snack on during the day is fully your responsibility!

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