To Snack or Not to Snack

I am usually a fan of snacking because I do not like my clients to get too hungry before a meal.  Most people need to eat every 4-5 hours to avoid becoming ravenous.  However; snacking is complicated.  On one hand, it does allow you to meet nutritional needs by consuming additional nutrients not consumed at a meal.  BUT, if weight loss is a goal, snacking promotes more exposure to food, more food decisions and possibly more calories consumed.  And, let’s be honest, snacks do not always consist of fruits and vegetables.  Here are a few suggestions for you to consider on the topic of snacking:

1)      Keep the snacks out of sight. We are more likely to eat the first thing we see in our pantry.  According to Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, "anything that creates a pause (such as having to look for a snack) is enough to interrupt mindless eating”.  Try keeping a fruit bowl out on your kitchen counter or cut up vegetables visible in the refrigerator. 

2)      Beware of late-night snacking. If you're habitually eating in the late morning hours when you should be in bed, you might be reprogramming your brain. A 2006 study at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas found that late-night eating habits triggered genetic changes in rats' brains. When rats learned to expect snacks at times they'd otherwise be sleeping, their body clocks flipped. Sleep/wake genes in the rats' brains became in sync with the snack, and the rats started to ignore normal cues of when to sleep — even after the snacks stopped coming.

3)      Avoid eating out of large containers such as bags of chips, nuts or trail mix.  Pre-package these food items or use a measuring cup to portion out the snack and put the bag away. 

4)      When kids are home this summer, do not allow endless snacking.  Set a scheduled time for snacks and stick to it.  Also decide ahead of time what the snack will be.  You can give them a choice between two items. 

5)      Snack ideas for hunger:  yogurt, apple and cheese stick, veggies and hummus, ½ peanut butter sandwich, ¼ cup nuts,

6)      Snack ideas for a treat:  graham cracker + cream cheese + jelly, fudgescicle, otter pop, ice cream sandwich made with graham cracker and ice cream.