Do you cringe when someone asks if you would like a snack between meals? Or do you jump on it and munch away? If you cringe, did you know that proper snacking can actually lead to healthier eating habits and even help you lose weight? Well, it can.
When done right, snacking helps keep your blood sugar levels even though out the day and doctors are even recommending switching from the normal three squares a day to five with light snacks every 2 hours between meals. Now, those numbers just aren’t going to add up if you are counting calories for that many meals the same as you would for three a day, but ideally you would be eating the same number of calories in one day, but in smaller portions.
By eating more meals, and snacking in between, your body is able to make better use of those calories. Instead of storing them for later (what happens when you eat a big meal and end up sleepy) your body will be able to use them right away, which means less calories turning in to fat. It also means more energy through the day, no more mid-afternoon crash after lunch time.
The benefits are all in how and what you snack.
The Art of Snacking
Snacks are not meal replacements, so if you feel full after a ‘snack’ well then, you had a meal. Not where we are going for here, and fatty foods are fatty foods no matter how much or little you eat of them. Try following these tips for getting your snack on:
- Stay away from sugary foods and sodas. Candy and Coke do not a snack make, your body doesn’t process those types of sugars well so needing a boost is no excuse.
- Think whole grain. Whole grain crackers, cheese and some grapes are a great example of a nutritious snack with little calories. Aim for 200 calories or less, a good way to judge is to use one of those little plates (the ones you probably bought as part of your dinnerware and never actually use…) and fill that with your snack, when the plate is full walk out of the kitchen. When the plate is empty, no more snacking.
- Drink lots of water. Our bodies are primarily water, and we need lots of it to function at our best. If you want to go all the way, your body weight in ounces (if you weight 130lbs you should drink 130oz a day, or about 16 cups) is a good place to start. Being realistic, about 32oz will do ya fine. If you need more taste than that, something like Crystal Light is perfectly fine.
- Eat full meals about every 3-4 hours with a light snack in between. When it comes to meal time, don’t let your eyes overload your stomach, if you actually feel full you’ve eaten too much. Aim for not hungry instead. This might take practice, but trust me you will have more energy by not gorging yourself at mealtimes.
One of the major downfalls of snacking is the tendency to graze. Yes, like a cow. This happens when you do things like eat half (or all) of a bag of chips without noticing. More than a handful for a snack is too much. Try this to avoid grazing:
- Do not bring a whole container (bag, box…) with you anywhere. If you are bringing snacks to work pre-portion in separate containers. If you are home grab a bowl or plate.
- Don’t refill. Once your plate or snack-size container is empty, resist the temptation to get more. If you’re finding that you are still hungry try adding a few whole grains, or a handful of nuts to your snack. They are filling and light on calories.
With some practice and planning you’ll be snacking like a pro in no time. Proper snacking will help you maintain your energy level and allow you to burn calories all day because you will only be eating what you need. Smaller meals with snack in between will keep your body happy and you healthy. Happy snacking!