The Art of Snacking

I recently attended a panel discussion on snack trends in US women.   What I found interesting from the panel was the topic of people feeling embarrassed when they snack or the feeling that snacking is something to avoid.   Snacking is a component in the majority of people’s day, as it should be, especially if a person is looking to lose way.  Today I am spending moment to break down snacking and hopefully dissuade anyone from feeling guilty or uncomfortable when they have one.

What is a snack?  If you were to ask the person sitting next to you what they had for a snack you are likely to receive a milieu of different answers from having a cup of coffee to bag of chips to a piece of chicken.  I’m going to define a snack as a session of eating a small amount of food, 100-200calories.

Why to snack?  Everyone should eat every 3-4 hours.  This means that you may or may not need a snack or multiple snacks a day depending on the structure and length of your day.  Research shows that if you eat every 3-4 hours you are also less likely to over eat later in the day, you avoid having that ravenous feeling at dinner (especially important for anyone trying to lose weight).  We have all had the time when you get home from work starving, eat anything and everything in sight and still feel like you want food, despite your body being full.  Snacking is the #1 prevention of this problem.

When do I add a snack? If you were to have breakfast at 8, lunch around 12, and dinner at 4 and in bed by 8 you would not need a snack in your day.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who lives on those times, except maybe my 95 year old grandmother.   Your day should start off with breakfast, and no a latte does not count.  If you can eat lunch 4 hours after that then you do not need a snack.  If you can’t then you want to add one in.  The majority of people need to add a snack in the afternoon.  We are working longer hours and the time between lunch and dinner can be 6-7 hours apart.  A snack is clearly indicated here: having lunch at noon, but not getting home till 7pm to have dinner.

How to set up your snack times?  Take out a sheet of paper and a pen, write down the time you wake up, when you generally have breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Look at the amount of time between the meals, if it is greater than 4 hours you need to add snack.  Presto-Bingo, you have your snack schedule set up!  If you are at work, set a pop-up reminder for your snack time, this way you don’t have to worry about remembering.

What does a snack look like?  Now that we have the time scheduled for a snack, what should the snack be?  For most people it should be between 100-200 calories. That’s right a snack is not a large meal, but a bump along the way to ensure your body has the energy to get through day before you can have a full well-rounded meal.

Examples:

  • ~100-200 nuts (not salted or honey roasted)
  • ~Yogurt and fruit
  • ~Piece of toast w/ peanut butter
  • ~Hummus and veggies or a piece of pita (red pepper slices, celery, carrots all delish to dip!)
  • ~Piece of fruit
  • ~Trisects/whole grain crackers
  • ~Chocolate milk (great for after a workout)
  • ~LARA bar, Pro Bar, or other snack bars (Best to choose ones that have only whole ingredients listed)

To be a successful snacker, planning is key.   You not only need to know when you are going to have your snacks, but what they will be composed of.  If you don’t bring one in, where are you going to get a healthy snack?  Plan on planning to forget to bring a snack with you.  Keep a box bars in your desk or yogurt in a fridge.  Know what stores are around and who has good options for you.  PLANNING is necessary!

As usual, if you have any questions or comments post away.  Share snacks that you find enjoyable!