Should we snack?


To snack or not to snack, that is the question

One of the most common questions I hear from people when wanting to make healthy changes to their life is, what should I eat between meals?

The first thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to snack.

Years ago we were told that we should eat 6 small meals a day in order to keep our metabolism going. This myth was repeated over and over again without any research or science backing it up.

We now know that eating 6 small meals usually results in people ingesting more calories throughout the day than they need. And not eating for a period of time (i.e. between meals) is not going to slow our metabolism down. In fact, allowing ourselves time off between meals can actually be good for our health.

So how do we avoid snacking? The first step is to make sure that your meals are suffcient and keep you satisfied until the next meal. A bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast will have you lining up at the coffee shop ready for the next sugar hit within a couple of hours.

Starting the day with a nutrient dense meal such as a vegetable omelette is more likely to get you through to lunchtime without needing a morning snack.

Here are some simple ways to reduce the need to snack between meals:

  • Make sure your meals are satisfying.

  • Include protein such as cheese, lean meats or nuts at every meal.

  • Fill up with lots of salad and vegetables.

  • Include different textures in your meals to make them more satisfying (e.g. add nuts and seeds to salads, sprinkle toasted chickpeas on you roasted vegetables etc.).

  • Eat your meals mindfully. Always sit at a table and savour your food.

  • If you feel hungry between meals, drink some water and then see how you feel.

  • Keep herbal tea on hand.

  • Check in with yourself to make sure you are actually hungry and not bored.

  • Go for a quick walk around the block to distract yourself from the thoughts of food.

Now, let’s say you’ve tried all of these things, but still find yourself needing something. Avoid anything labelled “snack food”. 

Most pre-packaged snack foods such as biscuits and muesli bars are full of fat and sugar. Then there are the options that are promoted as “healthy” such as baked (not fried!) crackers or rice cakes. These options offer no nutritional value, fail to fill you up, and will send you straight back to the cupboard for more.

If you need something to keep you going until your next meal, choose real food that is jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients and will keep you full until your next meal.

Here are some healthy options that won’t compromise your nutrition:

  • Vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables – you can eat vegetables all day and it’s really not that difficult. Quickly cutting up some cauliflower, carrots or broccoli takes no time at all, and with some fresh hummus on the side you are all set.

  • Fruit is filled with vitamins and fibre and hits the sugar cravings on the head. Some great low sugar, nutrient dense options includes berries, apples, pears, oranges and peaches.

  • Boiled eggs are an easy nutrient filled snack that will keep you full for a long time. Hard boil a few eggs at the start of the week and leave them in the fridge for when you need a quick, filling snack.

  • Nuts are filled with protein, fibre and vitamins. They fill you up and give you energy. The best options include almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and walnuts. They do have a high fat content though so keep an eye on your portion size. Stick with a handful of nuts a day.

  • Edamame or boiled soybeans are a great choice as they are high in protein and fibre but low in calories.

  • Natural greek yogurt is a great snack, especially added to a bowl of berries for some sweetness. Some yogurts can be very high in sugar so opt for brands that have less than 5g of sugar per 100g.

  • Air popped popcorn is quick and easy. Buy yourself a cheap popcorn machine (you can get them for around $20 at places like Kmart) and you can pop it whenver you need to nibble.

  • Pumpkin seeds are a great, quick snack that will fill you up.

  • Soup between meals is a much better alternative than a packet of chips or rice crackers. Prepare a big pot over the weekend, freeze it in small tupperwear containers and it is ready to heat and eat when the afternoon cravings hit.

  • Leftovers from dinner the night before will fill you up and be much more satisfying than a bag of pretzels (this is on the assumption that your leftovers are vegetable and protein filled meals, not leftover pizza!)

    “Your pantry should not look like an unsupervised 9 year old was given $100 to spend at the service station.”

by Angie Black

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Hey! I’m Angie. I’m passionate about fitting exercise into your life, for the rest of your life.