As with most things related to nutrition, there is considerable debate amongst experts and lay people alike about snacking. Is it good or bad? Should you eat 8 small meals a day or fast all day and eat only 1 large meal? All sides can find some “scientific research” to support their beliefs, and while they continue to hash it out, the rest of us are left thinking, I don’t know what’s right, but I’m hungry!
I like to know the answers. Black and white facts. But I’ve realized that whether we’re talking about healthcare, nutrition, or wellness in general, black and white doesn’t exist. So, I don’t know the answer to the is snacking good or bad question, but I have a few thoughts. First, we’re all different with unique needs. Rarely is any answer going to be one size fits all. If you wonder whether snacking works for you or if you’re better off eating only 2-3 meals per day, try your own experiment. Keep in mind that your answer will not be clear in a day. If you’re significantly changing your eating style, give yourself several days to let your body adjust. Pay attention to how you feel after each meal/snack and throughout the day in general. Feeling tired, sleepy, bloated, gassy, light-headed, or constipated are signs that your food (what you’re eating as well as how often you eat) are not ideal for you. So, before you reach for the tums or pepto, consider making a change in what and when you eat.
Also, before snacking maybe we need to ask ourselves why we are eating. So often food is an easy, short-term fix for other things in our life, and no matter who you are, eating when you’re not really hungry because your significant other is a jerk is not healthy. Ever wonder why after eating everything in sight all day, you’re still hungry? It could be that your body really did need more calories that day, or it could mean that you were craving something other than food and you still haven’t satisfied that need. So, before reaching for a snack, stop and really listen to your body. Are you hungry? Are you angry, sad, anxious? Is food what you need, or do you need to take a walk, read a book, meditate or pray, or have a conversation with someone?
For those times when your tummy is rumbling and asking for food, my recommendation is start small. Eat a little and don’t consider eating more for at least 20 minutes. If you’re still legitimately hungry after this time, have another small snack.
Finally, make it healthy! Often our bodies crave what we’re depleted in nutritionally. You’re more likely to feel full if you match your snack (or your meals for that matter) with what your body needs. That doesn’t mean if you’re craving something sweet, eat some cake. There are other ways to fill a sweet craving.
For some healthy snacking ideas to match your cravings (complete with some simple recipes), check out the November issue of "The Wellness Word" newsletter:
I teach, write, and talk a lot about wellness and try to live as an example. But the truth is that we all live in the real world where making healthy choices is not easy. Implementing changes into real life is hard. This blog is a compilation of recipes, tips, and tools to help incorporate wellness into daily life. Some come from my own personal wellness journey while others have been shared by clients, friends, and family. We're all learning together so please share your own tips as well!