To Snack or Not to Snack?
That is a question I ask myself every afternoon. The body provides physical signals (like a growling stomach or a headache) if fuel is needed, but it can also provide the desire to eat for reasons other than true hunger. It can be particularly challenging to differentiate between the two scenarios.
Here are a few tips for smart snacking.
The body likes consistency. Foods we consume raise our blood sugar level in approximately a four-hour bell-shaped curve. Waiting longer than that to refuel, causes your blood sugar to drop too low and extreme hunger can lead to “less than optimal” food choices.
For example, if lunch time is around noon, and dinner isn’t until 6-7 hours later, a snack is appropriate. To avoid over consumption, be careful to have a planned snack time instead of “grazing” your way between meals. Nothing like having the entire bag of Cajun Trail Mix at your desk where you can mindlessly munch away! That can easily go from a little refuel to going overboard.
Not all foods are created equal when it comes to snacking. The goal is to make sure a snack contains fiber rich foods. Fiber slows down how quickly food travels through the body and keeps the tummy full longer.
Hands down, vegetables are one of the best fiber rich snacks. Raw vegetables (such as celery sticks or broccoli florets) are quick and portable providing that crunchiness most like and you can make them more enjoyable by adding a little hummus. I have even roast beets or radish slices for a vegetable “chip” nosh. You can even heat up vegetable leftovers from the previous night’s dinner!
It’s important to pair fiber rich carbohydrates with a form of protein for best blood sugar results. Combining raw or cooked vegetables with healthy proteins like nuts or nut butters, hard boiled eggs, soybeans (edamame) or low-fat cheese is that balance the body needs.
My snacking secret is to make a batch of a vegetable-based soup (with either chicken strips or black beans thrown in) at the start of each week and then portion into single serve containers to reheat at my office. The soup’s warm liquid contributes to feelings of fullness and is a perfect combination of fiber rich vegetables and hearty protein to keep me going all afternoon long.
The Bottom Line
Go ahead and have a snack! They’re not “bad” if you are careful with the quality and quantity. Snacks are “mini feedings” that are necessary when mealtimes are far apart. Watch portion sizes and limit frequency to no more than 2 times throughout the day.