Snacking: the Holy Grail for Those Who Love to Eat (and eat and eat and eat)


I’m a snacker. Full meals are great, but there’s something about snacking that just seems to make eating a bit more fun. Luckily for a snacker like me, I’m in the kitchen all day which allows me to try food throughout the day- basically my dream come true. Not many people hold occupations like this, and so snacking becomes a bit trickier. When to snack, how much to snack, what to snack… should I be snacking at all? I’m a believer in the intuitive eating mentality- listen to your body to determine if you need to eat. It’s not always easy at first to tap into this mindfulness exercise, but with time it gets easier. So let’s say the answer is “yes” and your body needs some extra fuel before that next meal. Now what? Let us begin the discussion on the art of the snack.

 

A snack, though painfully obvious, is smaller than a meal and eaten in between conventional meal times (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). What does a snack look like? Well anyone could tell you what they consider a snack to be. I think the interesting question is whether or not there is a specific guideline for what a snack should be. As a Registered Dietitian, my school-taught choreographed response is “something around 200 calories or less, with a good macronutrient balance”- basically any combination of a protein dominant food paired with a carbohydrate dominant food or a fat dominant food. This means that simply having a glass of orange juice, which is 100% carbohydrate, would not count as a complete snack. The thought behind this is that a snack should provide enough satiety and energy to get you to the next appropriate meal time, and so at least two macronutrients would be preferred.

snacking choices

Should we be snacking?

There are obvious reasons why snacking can be a good thing. If there is a long period of time between regularly scheduled meals, if someone is attempting to gain weight and supplement their current eating routine, or if you performed an intense activity and need to refuel. But there are obvious downsides as well. Snacking can lead to unintended weight gain due to an excess of calories and the most common snacks are usually not the healthiest, meaning you’re adding not just calories but unnecessary (and potentially harmful) additives/dyes/chemicals into your system. Snacking might not be for everyone. However, if you’re a “snacker”, consider Snacking Smart (discussed later on!)

 

Snacking Statistics

In my research on snacking, I came across an interesting finding: many millennials are replacing a standard meal with a snack-like meal – a “snackification” of mealtimes, if you will (a phrase I desperately wish I had come up with myself). In an article by Food Navigator, 92% of a group of Millennials admitted to replacing a mealtime with a snack about one time per week. Around 50% reported doing this at least four times per week. The reason behind this snacking trend hits on a point I had not previously mentioned- convenience. In this group surveyed, it was reported that snacking was preferred due to busy schedules or the unwillingness to cook. Again, the fine line between a snack and a meal comes into play. If eaten during a standard mealtime, does it still remain a snack? Is it considered a snack due to the amount eaten? While the article did not give these details, I think it is interesting to consider that snack size could be different for individuals, especially if we think of the snack a male teenage athlete might consume versus and elderly female. Alas, snacking is not black and white (unless you’re eating Oreos… but should they really be thought of as a snack?)

 oreo label

The ingredient list on a package of Oreos. I spy a few synthetically-inserted vitamins  among a host of nonessential junk ingredients.

 

While navigating the snacking world is not always easy, there are some simple tips for making snacking work for you:

 

    1. Learn Intuitive eating. This is a skill everyone should work on, and not just for snacking. Mastering intuitive eating/mindfulness will help you to determine if you need a snack in the first place. Then, it can guide you to make a food choice that will nourish your body, not just give into your cravings. So, let’s take an example. You’re starting to get that mid-afternoon itch and your body is signaling that it needs something. First step of mindfulness is to check in with yourself and determine what it is your body is asking for. Our minds immediately jump to food, but could you also just need a walk or change of scenery to jump start your energy and get you through the rest of the day? Maybe you’re feeling down and a talk with a coworker or friend could fill that need your body is looking for. If it is food that you need, that’s okay too! Now you can hone that mindfulness into your food choice. It’s tempting to want to hit up a vending machine for a quick fix, something usually done with little thought. Instead, take the time to think about how your snack choice can fuel your body: a rush of processed and sugary foods will only cause you to crash shortly thereafter, whereas a balanced snack with healthy fats, protein, and carbs can be the perfect fix to give you energy! Scroll down for some better snack choices, but for now, just know that the first step is mindfulness!
      2. Have a killer Snack Pack. This is your go-to, fool-proof snacking solution. After mindfulness, the next best thing you can do is to be prepared! Packing snacks doesn’t mean you have to eat them, but in the event your body needs some extra fuel, having the right stuff on hand can make all the difference. Smart snack packing will involve some strategy- does it need refrigerated or heated? Will you need utensils to eat it? Is assembly required? Your first attempt at finding the perfect snacks for you may take time, but once you have an arsenal of go-to items, you’ll never be stuck again!
        3. Real Food is Real Good. When choosing items for your snack pack, think of real food, NOT processed and packaged goods (i.e. granola bars with a bazillion ingredients, yogurts loaded with fake sugar, or chocolate cakes/cinnabuns/etc). Fruit is always a good choice since it’s basically a self-contained food with no altering required! Just remember that you may need a tablespoon of nut butter or cup of yogurt to round out the snack. Other great choices could be a few pieces of your favorite cheese paired with a few tablespoons of your favorite nuts. Try half an avocado with hot sauce. Maybe I’m strange, but this is one of my all-time favorite snacks. Another snack I enjoy is baking a small sweet potato and adding a few pats of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. You can make it the night before and heat it up at work the next day! Yes, this seems a little odd at first since most people aren’t eating sweet potatoes as a snack, but let’s start the revolution of real food snacking!
          4. Forget the Calories, Think About the Nutrients! A sweet potato, avocado, or handful of nuts will do your body a lot more good than that “100-calorie pack” of Cheez-its. So, forget the calories and think about the nutrients! I’m not suggesting you eat so much that the snack becomes a meal, but I am so disheartened by the push for calorie-centric food items. Those 100-calorie pack brownie bites are praised for their minimal caloric contribution. But people, the point of a snack (or any meal, really) is to provide your body with energy! Calories are energy! So if you’re snacking, then you need energy and you need micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). This way, your body has all it needs to continue doing all the metabolic processes that it does.

            Take Away

            Start today by switching some of your usual snacks to “real food” choices. Do it slowly so that you don’t become overwhelmed. Create your snack pack arsenal, and learn to check-in with yourself when you feel a snack craving coming on. There is definitely a place for snacking, and it’s best done when we are choosing nourishing foods for our bodies. That’s all for now! All this snack talk has made me hungry, so I’m off to eat an avocado with hot sauce. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

             

            XOSherry

             

             

            Sources:

            http://mobile.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/Millennials-replace-meals-with-snacks-survey-finds?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=28-Feb-2017&c=a7mAv4EeYvE0iruKboUS0LU2iBDXZH%2BO&p2=

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            1 comment


            • JAne MApkes

              What an informative article. You are a great writer, Sherry!


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