Snacks have a bad reputation. Poor snacks. Are they really that bad?
I am guessing the first thing that came into your mind when seeing the topic of “snacks” was “weight gain”. Snacks get blamed for the extra pounds that creep on. I get it. But do you generally “have a snack” or do you find yourself “snacking”? These are not the same activities and can be the difference between pounds on or pounds off your waistline.
Confused? I will clarify.
There is a huge difference between “having a snack” and “snacking”.
Having a Snack
A planned snack has three traits:
- It provides nutrition that perhaps your meals have not
- It keeps your energy high
- It bridges the gaps between meals so that you can get from one meal to another without getting super or over hungry
Typically, I like to think of snacks as mini-meals that are balanced and nutritious.
This is not the same as having a snack. Start by thinking about foods that you may have been “snacking” on. What were they? What were you doing? I discover with many of my clients when they are “snacking,” they were eating standing up at the refrigerator, at the pantry, from their kids’ plates, while on the phone, or straight from the bag (ahem…potato chips). Does this sound familiar?
Generally foods eaten while “snacking” are what I call FUN FOODS or SOMETIMES FOODS. These are foods that are delicious and can certainly fit into our diets but generally speaking are better left as a dessert or as an accompaniment to a meal. Why? Well, most simply put they generally don’t satisfy the three traits that planned snacks do.
It is 4:00 and you are hungry, on the HUNGER/SCALE let’s say you are at a “3”. You reach for a snack size bag of potato chips. You sit at your desk while working on the computer and nosh on them while doing work. Sure it may take away your hunger a little bit and bring you to a “4” maybe a “5”, but you find yourself right back where you started in an hour, you have nothing else with you…and dinner isn’t until 7:30! That’s a long ways off.
At 6:00 you get home, you are at a”2” on the HUNGER/SCALE, and famished. Determined not to eat, because now besides being famished you are beating yourself up for eating that bag of potato chips, but subconsciously you do the opposite, you start to pick a little here and a little there, at the end you have gone back and forth to the pantry eating three handfuls of pretzels, several crackers, and added in a rice krispie treat (my fave). And you STILL enter dinner ready to eat because the eating behaviors and the foods chosen didn’t fit the level of hunger you were experiencing.
Having a Planned Snack
A planned snack can save you from overeating or from breaking habits that you have been trying so hard to change. You may recall in the post Anatomy of a Meal ,that:
A sensible and sustaining snack has BOTH of these components, a protein and a starch/carbohydrate.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule. This just illustrates a boundary so that you exercise some sort of balance in your snack choices and choose two foods from two different food groups.
For instance, the protein doesn’t have to be a food that is primarily protein but generally, the protein portion of the snack has some protein, fat and maybe some carbohydrates in it.
Planned Snack Examples
Some good examples of the protein portion of your snack would be, low fat yogurt, low fat cheese, hummus, nut butters, nuts and seeds. In terms of the carbohydrate, carbohydrates can be cereals, crackers, breads, grains and fruit. Since fruit consists of mainly carbohydrates I find combining it with a protein is an excellent and satiating way to get it into my day.
Here are a couple of my favorite snacks:
- Small Whole Wheat Pita + 4 Tablespoons Hummus
- Apple + 1 Tablespoon of Your Favorite All Natural Nut/Seed Butter
- ¾ cup blueberries + 1 cup Fat Free Plain or Vanilla Greek Yogurt
Best Time to Eat Planned Snacks
As discussed in the “7 Mind-Blowing Secrets to Weight Loss” it is only natural to get hungry about 3-4 hours after eating a well-thought out meal…so eat a snack if you need to go longer before your next meal!
By following my guidelines for creating your own SATISFYING SNACK you will be able to meet your next meal at a comfortable level of hunger so that you are able to make a sensible choice and eat appropriately without a struggle. This is what I call living by your intentions! If that is not empowerment I don’t know what is.
Tips on Snacks:
- Protein + Starch/Carb/Fruit
- Add some vegetables if you need some extra “topping off”
- Sit down for your snack
- Put your snack on a plate
- Avoid the computer and/or the telephone when enjoying your snack
- A client once said, “Oh a snack consists of a food that is in the refrigerator and one that is not.” This doesn’t have to be the case, it depends on where you keep your nut butters and fruit I suppose, but it is a cute way of looking at it.