TRUE OR FALSE : Snacking is bad
Written by Rebecca Hagler | Reviewed by Adiana Castro, MS, RDN, CDN, CLT
This is False! Snacking can help control hunger and control portions during meals. Have a snack if there is a 4-5 hour gap between meals. The snacks should be rich in protein and fiber.
These days, everyone has their own opinion on the pros and cons of snacking. Many believe that you will quickly gain weight if you snack between your three square meals a day. But this is false! In fact, snacking, when done right, can control hunger in those long stretches between meals, so you are less likely to overeat later in the day.
Snacking is an important part of a healthy diet for many reasons. First, with large gaps between meals, it is easy to arrive at the lunch or dinner table feeling so famished that you eat more food than we need. A snack between meals keeps you from getting overly hungry, and you will make smarter choices later. Second, snacking keeps up your energy throughout the day. We are all familiar with the afternoon lull and sudden exhaustion. But that’s to be expected if we don’t give our body the fuel to keep moving! Finally, snacks give us a great opportunity to include more nutrient dense foods like fruits and veggies in our diet, which is never an unhealthy habit!
If you have a 4-5 hour gap between meals, you should try to include a snack. But what is a healthy snack made of? Avoid grabbing a bag of chips or a candy bar. These starchy carbohydrates and sugars will be digested quickly and leave you feeling hungrier. Many granola bars today are advertised as healthy snacks, but are packed with sugar and calories. Instead, try to include both protein and fiber for that satisfied, full feeling and longer lasting energy! Here are some simple, healthy snack ideas to have on hand, so you’re never left hungry:
- Non-fat, plain Greek yogurt with a handful of berries
- A few tablespoons of hummus and some raw, cut up veggies, like celery or carrots
- Whole grain crackers and a few tablespoons of tuna or a little nut-butter
- ½ cup of shelled edamame
- A piece of cheese (cheese sticks are not just for kids, they are the perfect grab and go snack!) and a piece of fruit
- Hard boil a dozen eggs at the start of the week or bake mini frittatas with your favorite vegetables in muffin tins. These will stay fresh in the refrigerator, so you always have a quick protein source to grab.
- If you need to grab a granola bar on-the-go, look for a bar that has fewer than 8 grams of sugar, more than 5 grams of protein, and more than 3 grams of fiber.
These tips are just some of the many ways you can include healthy snacking in your day without spending more time meal planning. Remember, this does not mean that you can snack whenever you feel like it! Snacks should help keep you going between meals, not help you combat boredom. If you find yourself reaching for a bag of chips that you don’t really need, try going for a walk or having a glass of water, and see if that curbs your appetite first. If you are still looking for something to eat, it might be a good time to try one of the suggestions here, or come up with your own healthy snack!