Should you satisfy your snack desires?
Should you avoid the snack fix?
This question perplexes a lot of people, especially those that are trying to lose weight and manage calories efficiently. The idea of eating extra calories, especially if one is “not hungry” doesn’t make a lot of sense to most of us.
The term snack means different things to different people. Someone might think of a snack as a small bag of chips to stave off the afternoon munchies. Another person might consider a snack a greek yogurt and still another an apple. The key with snacking is identifying the purpose for a snack. For most of us, a snack is meant to hold us over because we start feeling hungry before the next meal.
low fat cottage cheese with frozen mixed berries
Generally, a balanced meal that contains lean protein, healthy fat, complex carbohydrate, and vegetables, keeps us full and satisfied for 3-5 hours. Every person is different and everyone’s body is a little bit unique but this is accurate for the majority of us. So, if meals are scheduled out longer that 4-5 hours apart (ie. lunch at 12pm and dinner at 6:30pm), then a snack is in order. However, if lunch is 1pm and dinner is generally at 6pm, then a snack may not be necessary.
It is important to identify the general time frame of meals so that you can determine when you should need a snack to curb your hunger. And, if meal times vary from day to day, you may need to have a backup snack so you don’t get yourself in a fix.
Another term for snack is “mini meal.” This term can help us approach snacking in a more balanced way because most of us wouldn’t consider a bag of chips, even a small one, a “balanced meal.”
I believe there are a few guidelines to follow when it comes to snacking that may be of help next time you think about reaching into the pantry.
- Choose whole foods- real, unprocessed or minimally processed foods
- Keep added sugars to 6-8 grams or less
- Choose foods that naturally contain at least 3+ grams fiber per serving
- Choose snacks with 100-200 calories.
- Include lean protein and/or healthy fat to stay full and satisfied.
Here are a few things you should know to make the best choices for you and your body:
There is no doubt that choosing real, whole, unprocessed foods is the best way to nourish your body! Processing strips foods of a variety of micronutrients (like vitamins and minerals) and fiber. Those micronutrients are involved in a variety of body processes like metabolizing protein and carbohydrate; helping keep your hair, nails, and skin healthy; maintaining healthy blood glucose; preventing a variety of cancers by keeping cells healthy. Choose nourishing foods that fuel your body, supply it with energy and promote healthy appearance and vitality.
steamed edamame with sea salt
Sugar comes in a lot of different forms and under a lot of deceptive guises. Ever heard of barley malt syrup, beet sugar, coconut sugar, dehydrated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, maltodextrin, or sucrose? There are more than 60 names for sugar so make sure to read those labels! Snack choices with too much added sugars will spike blood glucose and drop faster leaving you feeling lethargic and tired.
By July 2018, the FDA has required all nutrition labels to indicate total sugars and added sugars on all food products so that it is easier for consumers to identify which products are high in added sugars. Until then, continue to inspect all packaged food ingredient lists. If sugar is one of the first 3 ingredients, you may want to consider alternative choices.
This remarkable form of carbohydrate helps us feel full and satisfied (Yay!!), reduces cholesterol, helps control blood sugar levels (goodbye cravings!), and normalizes bowel function. The name fiber may sound dull and boring but it is very active regulating and working to keep our bodies healthy and happy. Foods rich in fiber like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds all tend to take longer to chew and therefore slow down the meal so our brains get the signal we are full. And, Fiber only tastes like bark if you eat the exterior of trees. Do not be deceived, if you like berries, you like fiber. If you like nuts, you like fiber. If you like beans in chili, you like fiber. So enjoy some real, tasty food high in fiber!
Snacks that do not have enough calories (less than 100) may not appropriately fill you until meal time and you might find yourself reaching for another snack before long. So, reaching for the lowest calorie snack is not the right solution.
Healthy Protein and Fat
Protein and fat take longer to digest and therefore can leave you feeling full and satisfied for a longer period of time. Ideas for lean protein include low fat dairy, edamame, beans or legumes, eggs, and even canned tuna or cooked chicken. Healthy fat includes those that are low in saturated fat and higher in unsaturated fats like almond or peanut butter, roasted nuts (unsalted or dry roasted), avocado or guacamole.
apple slices with almond butter, raisins, and slivered almonds
Every time you eat, you have an opportunity, an opportunity to nourish your body. A snack is not different. Snacks are very useful meals that for many of us, help us get hunger and cravings out of our mind so we can focus on the life we are living. To go through the day without thinking about how we will fuel our bodies in-between the meals may lead us to make unwise food choices we will regret OR can cause us to overeat at the next meal.
TRUTH: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
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