Keeping snacking IN the picture!
If you’re like a good percentage of people in our culture, one of those resolutions might be to loose weight or just eat a healthier diet in general. Granted, this might be something you strive for every day, but that makes it no less important!
Maybe you’re following a plan at this point: you have good ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, lots of water, and complete avoidance of all sweets, junk food and between-meal snacks… but here is where I suggest you rethink that last point. Snacking isn’t in itself “evil” – it too, properly done, has its benefits, and can even improve your chances of success where weight loss is concerned. Additionally, proper snacking can help improve energy levels, mood, sleep patterns and even weight loss!
There are several reasons why we choose to snack between meals.
Some good purposes may include:
Maintaining an optimal metabolic rate throughout the day
When one goes too long without eating, our bodies actually go into “starvation mode”, meaning that metabolism slows down. This means that the body slow down on the normal energy burn and will hold on to whatever calories and fat it has in case the next meal is too long in coming.
In the long term, this can result in increased fat storage and more difficulty losing weight.
Keeping energy up and preventing hypoglycemia
Glucose is the primary food for the brain, and if blood sugar levels aren’t maintained at a pretty constant rate, concentration and mental productivity can be severely impaired. Having a snack at regular intervals can help improve focus thus improving productivity!
Prevent excess hunger at meal times or before bed
Denying yourself throughout the day just means you’ll be hungrier when you actually do sit down to eat, which can result in overeating and the resulting feeling of bloating, indigestion, sluggishness, and possibly weight gain – exactly what you were working to prevent!
Some of the less beneficial reasons may be:
Everyone else is having something, so should I
Some people feel they should eat simply because everyone else is, even when they aren’t hungry. What’s the motivation – to fit in? To fill time or a lapse in conversation? As with anything else, eating shouldn't be a “peer pressure” activity.
It’s there and free (ie: buffet, party snacks)
Frequently (of course not always), free food isn’t really worth the indulgence. Either it’s been sitting out for a couple hours and has gone limp/stale or just isn’t something that you’d usually eat if it wasn’t staring you in the face. This is especially true if you are trying to curb overeating or lose weight. Save your meals and snacks for when it’s worth it, and for when you’ll really enjoy what you’re eating!
Boredom or Loneliness
Do you, lacking something to do for a moment, ever just wander into the kitchen and randomly search through cupboards or the fridge. In this situation, many will subsequently see something and just decide to eat it, without thinking or for lack of anything better to do. Instead, when you’re bored, read a book, call a friend, or better yet grab your running shoes and head outdoors for some fresh air and exercise! Don’t use food to fill a void!
It’s known that depression, in a majority of people, is due to feeling an unfilled “void” somewhere deep within. Many try to fill this with food when it actually needs to be filled with love or companionship. If you know that this is your cause for overeating or unnecessary snacking, trying to get to the bottom of your feelings will be your first step to curbing the habit. Seek out a friend to talk to, or you might even find counseling is what you need.
Ideas for choosing a healthy snack:
As with your meals, whole, unprocessed foods are the best options. Protein, fiber and healthy fat are filling and provide your body with the nutrients it needs to maintain your blood sugar and keep going straight through to the next meal. Simple sugars and refined carbohydrates move through the body quickly and can cause your blood sugar levels to crash, leaving you looking for more. Include water or herbal teas for adequate hydration and avoid sodas and caffeine, which are dehydrating and often full of refined sugars and chemicals!
Some suggestions for healthy snacks can include:
Fruit with yogurt (if tolerated) and muesli
Vegis with guacamole/bean dip/hummus
Apples with Almond butter
Hard Boiled Egg and Raw vegis
Raw nuts and Unsweetened dried fruit
Air-Popped Popcorn with coconut oil and sea salt
Ultimately, it’s about moderation and ensuring you are sticking to your goals. If and when you have a snack, just make sure it’s for the right reasons, and that you’re actually going to enjoy what you’re eating and will feel satisfied afterward. Deprivation isn’t the answer to weight loss – there are years of proof and millions who would be witness to this point. The key is to learn appropriate eating patterns which you’ll be able to maintain even when you’ve reached your target weight!
Dr Katarine Holewa, ND