Snacking – Friend or Foe?
How Healthy Snacking Can Help You Manage Weight and Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
We are a snacking culture. Everyone is always looking for an easy grab and go, a treat for that 3p—4pm energy slump, or a tasty nibble while watching their favorite TV show. In fact, studies show that we spend a lot of time noshing on snacks today than ever before. With concern for the growing obesity crisis in America, there’s a lot of debate whether or not snacking contributes to weight gain.
One reason snacking has gotten such a bad rap is because the majority of snacks consumed these days are high in sugar, processed carbohydrates, additives and have low nutritional value.
So when it comes to your snack choices, Quality is priority #1. You want to avoid all the packaged stuff and instead create a whole real foods snack with healthy fat, fiber and protein. Foods high in healthy fat and protein will keep you full and satisfied by keeping your blood sugar more stable throughout the day – a great way to avoid those dips that can sap your physical and mental energy. With plenty of good nutritious choices to choose from, snacks can also play an important role in filling in important nutritional gaps.
What Are My Favorite Healthy Snack Options?
Raw Nuts and Seeds – Try a small handful of almonds and pumpkin seeds to curb cravings between meals.
Apples and Nut Butter – Cut up some apples slices and dip them in some almond or cashew butter and enjoy.
Edamame in the Pod – In the frozen section for a great snack sprinkled with sea salt while watching a movie.
Carrots or Celery Sticks with Hummus – Enjoy a perfect blend of crunchiness and smoothness; make your own hummus or find spiced varieties made without preservatives at your natural foods market.
Trail Mix – Ditch the store bought ones which can have added sugar and create your own custom blend of nuts, seeds and dried fruit from the selection in your local health food store’s bulk section.
Hard Boiled Eggs / Turkey / Grilled Chicken Breast – If you are really hungry in between meals, there’s no reason you can’t eat normal meal things! These choices fill you up with protein and keep you in balance.
Smoothies – Who doesn’t want a milkshake experience in the middle of the afternoon? For a truly satiating option, blend ½ a banana, a handful of frozen berries, a handful of kale, a tablespoon of almond butter and 1 cup of coconut milk. For an added bonus, throw in a dash of cinnamon, which naturally stabilizes blood sugar.
Another important key in the snacking debate lies in the proper definition of a snack and how it fits into your daily lifestyle.
The primary purpose of a snack is to curb appetite between your main meals and when done right snacking can prevent you from overeating. In other words, the idea is that by eating small high quality snacks in between meals, you won’t be tempted to overeat for your regular meals. Careless snacking on the other hand, done out of boredom, anger or stress without regard to physical hunger can easily tip the scale the other way. If you routinely choose unhealthy snacks and make equally unhealthy choices for meals, don’t be surprised if you start to gain excess weight. To keep snacking in the right context of your daily routine, I advise my clients to prioritize their focus on their actual main meals making them the most whole, balanced and delicious as they can be. That way high quality snacks stay in the right proportion for your personal needs and can be a complement to every day eating.
Bottom-line, what makes snacking a good or bad habit when it comes to your weight and health goals is paying attention to both the quality choices as well the context in your overall eating behavior.
It’s important that you decide which works best for you: eating three amazing healthy meals or eating small healthy snacks or mini-meals throughout the day. The truth is that both strategies can work well for different people. Regardless, the key is awareness. Don’t just snack for the sake of snacking. Listen to your body and fuel it when it needs it. The more you can be aware of your body, the more you can effectively determine why you feel the way you do and the more successful you will be in making the food choices that truly serve you.
Here are some easy tips to make snacking a healthy strategy for you:
When you get hungry between meals, ask yourself a few questions:
Are you skipping meals? Commit to set meals throughout the day. Eating at regularly scheduled times helps naturally regulate your appetite.
Did you eat a big enough breakfast or lunch? Maybe going forward you need to fill up with more protein and healthy fats at your main meals.
Are you skimping on sleep? Being tired all the time, wreaks havoc on key hormones that regulate your appetite and fullness signals setting you up for excess and /or poor quality snacking.
Are you thirsty? – When you do not drink enough water, your body receives mixed signals on hunger. Dehydration causes you to believe you need to eat when you really need liquid intake.
Are you really hungry for food? Or maybe are you bored, stressed and looking for distraction? Check in with yourself maybe all you need is a stretch break, or a breath of fresh air to recharge. My #1 recommendation: Go Zen and take a deep breath in and then a deep breath out. Repeat for just two minutes. I promise you’ll be so much more relaxed and clear-headed to decide.
Are You Focused on Your Food? – Are you watching TV or checking email while you’re eating? Distracted eating blocks the feeling of satisfaction in your brain setting the stage to make poor food choices and overeating. In contrast, studies show that mindful eating is a powerful tool for improving behaviors around food and promoting weight loss.
High Protein Anytime Granola
- 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1 cup almond meal (“Bob’s Red Mill” or Trader Joe’s)
- 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup raw almonds, chopped
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
- 1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
- 4-5 teaspoons allspice
- 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
- Stir in the wet ingredients. Mix well.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread mixture in a single layer.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Mix about half way through.