By Callie McBride
If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a serious love/hate relationship with food. On second thought…it’s not food that I fight with, it’s my appetite! How is it that I am hungry all. the. time!? Still, I’ve found that there’s no point in trying to change my huge appetite. Instead, I try to work with it. That’s where my love for snacking comes in. I munch snacks twice a day, in between meals, and I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t my favorite part of the day.
I was listening to National Public Radio recently, however, and heard a story about how many families in France actively stay away from snacking altogether. American Pamela Druckerman, author of “Bringing Up Bebe”, was interviewed earlier in the year about her transition from living in the U.S to living in France and how she learned that by removing snacking from the household, the children are hungrier at dinnertime and thus are more willing to try their vegetables and other healthier foods. This got me thinking…is snacking just a bad habit that’s ruining our big meals, or is it a smart way to keep portions in check and get in a variety of foods throughout the day?
Arguments against snacking range from overeating to ruining one’s dinner, especially if the snack isn’t healthy. I’ve found that snacking can be a healthy aid to weight loss or maintenance, as long as you do it the right way. While I cannot speak for everyone, I know that I personally prefer to eat five smaller meals a day as opposed to three huge meals. I still eat a larger portion of food at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I include two snacks throughout the day to tide me over to the next meal.
I avoid processed snacks that come in big bags or boxes, such as granola, chips, or crackers; when you snack straight from the bag, chances are you won’t notice how much you are eating and you’ll end up consuming more than you had planned. I love to snack on nuts, like almonds and pecans, that are packed full of good fats. However, I make sure that I pre-portion them (a small handful, around 10-12 nuts) so that I don’t go overboard.
On the other hand, things like carrot sticks, plain air-popped popcorn, and watermelon are all snacks that you can eat more of! Raw veggies are full of vitamins and very dense, so you’ll feel full up quicker, popcorn is low in calories and high in fiber, which gives you a better bang for your buck, and watermelon is mostly water-based, so you’ll be hydrating at the same time.
Here are a few more tips for smart snacking:
-Aim to eat all your meals around the same time each day. Your body will know when to expect its next meal, and you can plan your snacks accordingly.
-The best snacks are ones that come “individually,” or not from a big box; think a piece of fruit or a fruit & nut bar. Once you eat it, you know you’re done! If you do want to snack from a big box (careful! These munchies tend to be highly processed), dole out portions in advance.
-Some snacks to make sure to portion out correctly: hummus, peanut butter, nuts, granola or trailmix. Often times the serving size is pretty small, but try to follow it if you’ve got weight loss on the brain!
- My favorite on-the-go snacks: apples, Kind bars and Lara bars (both are all natural, vegan fruit and nut bars) or small packages of nuts.
-Don’t snack in front of the television or computer, which can easily cause overeating or mindless eating. Take time out of your day to sit down either in silence or with a friend and enjoy your snack fully, keeping in mind how satisfied you feel afterward.
To make sure you’re getting a full range of vitamins and nutrients daily, try to eat plenty of food within the categories of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and leafy greens. Snacking actually helps me satisfy all of the those food groups! Whereas someone may only be getting vegetables, beans, and whole grains from their 3 large meals a day, I am able to sneak in those nuts, fruits, and greens by adding two small snacks.
A typical meal plan of mine is steel cut oats and blueberries for breakfast, an apple and a coconut water as a snack, a big green salad with veggies and sprinkled with nuts for lunch, a Lara Bar for an afternoon snack, and a great dinner of baked tofu, asparagus, and sweet potato rounds.
So the next time you feel your stomach grumbling between lunch and dinner, don’t ignore it-go for the snack! But just bear in mind your weight-loss goals and select smartly.
Are you for or against snacking? What are your favorite snacks to have on hand?