To Snack or Not To Snack… Or Does it Even Matter?

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

goals Habits Nutrition Uncategorized

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3 Meals a Day + 2 Snacks

6 Small Meals a Day

3 Meals + 1 Snack

3 Square Meals a Day

Eating every 2 hours..

No food after dark..

Yes I have experimented with them all! Back in the day I would hear the newest guru promoting the magic number of meals you should eat each day for forever fast fat loss & jump on board. “You should eat every 2 hours to stoke your metabolism“! Of course that makes sense! “Breakfast is a must”, well duh! “Don’t eat 4 hours before bed?” or “Have snacks between every meal”. They all can make sense in a well presented article if the author does a great job selling the idea. And that’s not to say they are all wrong.

But IS there a optimal amount of snacking you should do to lose weight? YES THERE IS! The magic meal plan is out there & perfect for you. What is it? Easy, whatever works for YOU & you can stick to! I have seen ALL of these formulas work for fat loss success. Ultimately the best plan is what fits within your lifestyle, keeps your hunger, energy & cravings in check & makes you feel good.

So how do you know what will work best for you? Let’s look at a few common snacking slip ups to see if you fall into any of these categories:

Common Snacking Snafus:

  • Eating Pre-Packaged Junk Food: if you are someone on the go, hates to plan ahead or pack nutrient dense options then snacking may not be for you. People’s who’s only options (whether options by what they WILL eat or has readily available) are bars, crackers, chips & other lower quality foods then it might be time to rethink their snack game.
  • Overeating on “snack foods”: a few crackers with hummus or a handful of nuts? Eh that didn’t really satisfy so let me grab another handful or two. These foods can be super easy to overdo the portions & end up calorically adding up to an extra meal or two per day. If you find that a small snack never actually happens, might be time to try a new method.
  • Forcing Smaller Meals to Includes Snacks: I find from a psychological perspective, the 5-6 small meals or snacks approach can be a real negative for certain people. These tiny meals never really fill you up or provide satiety. So instead you fixate on waiting another 2-3 hours for the allowed snack, leading to a constant state of hunger & food fixation. That’s not a physically or mentally healthy amount of energy to expend on food.
  • Using For Non-Hunger Needs: We often start to use snacking as a way to soothe stress, boredom, sleepiness, frustration or lack of energy in the office. A bandaid to cover up the underlying issues never fixes the problem.

Tips to Avoid Unhealthy Snacking:

  • Eat Bigger Meals: if you are snacking on bad options out of hunger, why not try adding some extra staying power to breakfast or lunch. Experiment with meal size to cut out the physical need to fit in that mid-day munching.
  • Determine the Cause: keep a journal & start paying attention to when you snack, what you choice & the why behind it. If it’s a none hunger related decision, brainstorm alternative options to begin implementing in place of food.
  • Exercise Induced: overdoing cardio or other excessive exercise can wreck havoc on hunger signals. I find the incessisent hunger a big warning signs that fitness may be interfering with your hormones. If this sounds like you, I would take time to re-evaluate your regimen to consider if it’s the culprit of your unhealthy eating practices.

The truth is you don’t need a snack mid-morning & mid-afternoon to achieve fat loss, maintain a healthy bodyweight, keep your metabolism moving or any of that. Those goals will be determined by the totality of the food you eat throughout the day, week, month & lifetime. I have absolutely struggled with finding my perfect formula over the years & what I have come to realize is it CHANGES. Depending on the day, my exercise intensity, my current goals & so on I adjust as I go. On days I am busy & know I won’t have time for a healthy snack, I eat a bigger breakfast. On days I am short on time & grab a lighter lunch, I have go to snacks that satisfy. I know my trigger foods & don’t set myself up to have them around during my mid-day slump when energy & willpower are at their lowest. It’s taken trial, LOTS of error & permission to trust myself. It’s a PRACTICE!

KEY TAKEAWAY: Stop looking for other gurus to tell YOU what works for your body  or lifestyle . That means you have to put in a little work & self experimentation to find the answers. Tough I know BUT it’s also way more satisfying & sustainable.

Tell me your BIGGEST struggle with trying to optimize your meal timing? 

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