How and when to snack: tasty ideas for a trimmer waistline
There are a lot of problems with typical snacking. People often grab a packet of chips or a tray of cookies and go to town. This somehow counts less than a meal because it's got a cute name. Even on a so-called clean diet, run masquerades as healthy snacks: lowfat crackers and cookies, cereal and granola bars, and even nuts may lead you astray. Eating outside of meals is one of the most common ways to add hundreds of calories to your diet without realizing it. Contrary to the "stoke the metabolic fire" mantra, eating every 17 minutes won't speed up your metabolism. Snacking the wrong way is a great way to get fat.
So what about all the advice to eat healthy snacks and never let yourself go hungry on a diet? This article will sort out how to snack smartly, why, when and what to eat (and not eat!).
Just follow our guidelines, try some of the simple snacking suggestions and enjoy!
Diagnosis of the Problem, and What to Do About it
- Snacking on snack foods. Common snacks like chips, chocolate, and popcorn aren't very filling on their own. They are processed packets of a fat and sugar that are laboratory engineered to make you want, need, and crave more. Instead, you want to snack the same way you would eat the rest of the time: on a balance of natural protein, carbs, fats and veggies. The only difference between a snack and a meal might be portion size. Sometimes you might need to cut down on food groups in order to cut down on calories. That's fine as long as you stick to natural, satiating foods. So instead of digging into a bag of chips, get some baked chips, slice some carrots/celery and dig into a fresh guacamole!
Take-home point: Think mini-meals, not snack packs.
- Distracted Snacking This is the biggest problem with the concept of snacking--it’s often shorthand for “eating while doing something else”. In this case, it doesn’t really matter if you are eating carrot sticks or oreos, this habit has got to go. Studies have shown people eat a lot more when they are distracted, and feel less satisfied from it. Is your food so boring that you need the TV to liven it up? Time to learn how to cook and season your food until it makes the TV look boring. Finish your food and then watch T.V, just don't do both at once. You'll get way more out of your food and you'll feel fuller. Not to mention the digestive benefits of chewing your food properly; maximize those calories!
Take-home point: Pay attention to your food
- Snacking without need Not all hunger is the same. In fact, sometimes what we think is legitimate cries for calories are really cries for water, entertainment or stress relief. Thirst is the easiest of these to solve, you basically just need to start drinking more water. We've written about hydration and electrolyte balance, which is another important thing for avoiding cravings.
Snacking from stress or boredom seems more complicated, but the basic solution is very simple. Namely, if you find yourself eating food you don't need, you need to find something else to do. Changing this habit takes time and persistence, but it doesn't have to be extremely complicated. The first step is to pay attention, so you recognize the urge to snack. Then you need to make a list of things you can do instead. Don't make them boring, or compatible with snacking, like watching TV. Try to find things that really interest you, and figure out what you are craving besides food.
Learning healthy ways to manage and respond to stress is crucial not only for losing weight, but even more so for keeping weight off. Relying on quick-fixes like short-term bursts of willpower, instead of addressing the underlying issues of habit and lifestyle, only sets you up for yo-yo dieting and frustration. For a lot of people, negativity manifests as hunger signals, or just ‘urge to eat’ signals. Think of a cigarette smoker, her stress response manifests as a craving to smoke. Recognise the issue, take a deep breath, and don't dig the hole any deeper. Either find a way to address directly what is stressing you, or make the conscious choice to focus on something else. A hot bath, a session with the foam roller or the barbell, a good book or movie, a walk, or a phone call to a friend: figure out what works for you and make it your new go-to stress relief habit.
So when is it ok to snack?
A snack is just a small meal. So you should have one when you need to eat something, but not a meal's worth.
- It's time to hit the gym but you don't quite have enough energy.
- You are not hungry enough for a full meal, but will not be able to eat for a long time.
- You don't have time to eat a full meal.
Swap-outs & Ideas (coincidentally, these are all great in meals, too)
As you will see below, snacking healthy does not have to mean snacking bland. In fact, we recommend switching out quantity for small portions of more exciting food. You can have a lot of your favorite stuff, you just have to make some smarter choices. Here are some alternatives to common snacks:
|Bad Snacks||Good Snacks|
|Fried Chips||Baked Chips|
|Super Healthy Nachos: Baked chips + Cheddar + Jalapeño.|
|Candy/Sweets||Dark Chocolate (70%)|
|Savor one, delicious square.|
|Sugary Yogurt||Greek Yogurt|
|With fruit, nuts, cinammon, or in cheesecake recipe.|
|Naturally flavored sparkling water with fruit ice cubes or a squeeze of orange/lemon. Try the Trader Joe's Brand.|
|Sweet Tea||UnSweet Tea|
|Get quality tea, brew it yourself. Have variety, green, black, flavored. Try black tea with vanilla extract and dash of 2% milk.|
What? You want more?
- Cucumbers and Pickles: a little salt can help satiety
- Other fancy vegetables: baby tomatoes, heart of palms, carrots, celery
- Homemade antipasti: again, salt and olive oil make veggies delicious
- Boiled Eggs: cut it fancy and season it well (we like za`atar). Goes great with above veggies.
- Fancy cheeses: goat, brie, cheddar, are just some of the good ones. Have it with fruit or veggies.
- Deli meats: prosciutto wrapped asparagus spears, turkey lettuce wraps, tuna lettuce cups, a lot of possibilities here.
- Homemade latte, cappuccino or cocoa. Skip the sugar, easy on the milk, strong on flavor. Decaf also works.
Snacking doesn't have to be boring or a ticket to a bigger waist size, you just have to be a bit smart about it and plan ahead. So get rid of those awful snacks you have and start making snacks that are delicious and good for you. Please share any snack ideas that you in the comments!