Aryane Oar, MS, RDN, CD
Is snacking okay?
Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Snacking is a controversial topic. If you feel unsure about snacking, don’t worry! You are not alone. This is a very common question and I am going to teach you a way to get to your answer.
What is your body telling you? Do you feel like you are dragging all day long? Do you notice yourself eating past the point of fullness at your meals out of a sense of not being sure when your next meal is coming? Oftentimes, if you are trying to not snack throughout the day and/or if meals are haphazard and unreliable, you will notice you are more likely to struggle to connect to your cues. Sometimes planning a snack in the afternoon or before bed (or some other time) actually makes it easier to your sense of connection and satisfaction at your meals.
Generally speaking, if you are feeling hungry between meals, that’s a sign that your body needs some fuel, so in this case, yes, a snack might be the missing piece! But let’s get into some more details as I also would like to share some tips and snack ideas down below.
First, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have consistent, regular meals throughout the day (more specifically, breakfast, lunch, and dinner) as part of healthful eating. These meals are crucial as they provide the bulk of the energy and nutrients our bodies need to keep up with our daily activities. So, don’t skip them! Skipping meals often leaves you feeling primal hunger which makes it difficult to connect to your cues of satisfaction and fullness.
Second, there is no rule as to the recommended number of snacks you can have. Most people spend 3-5 hours between meals, and you may be among those who do just fine with only the three meals I mentioned above. However, if you do find yourself constantly hungry throughout the day even with these three meals (or if you anticipate spending longer than usual until your next meal), incorporating one or two snacks could be very beneficial and contribute to your daily functions. It will help with appetite and may decrease cravings for quick-energy foods. I have noticed that most of my clients do best eating about 4-5 times per day. And please note that there is nothing wrong or bad if we eat a snack before bed!
If you realize that snacks are indeed necessary, here are some tips that you might find useful:
Plan ahead of time! This is key as snacks are easily forgotten. I also like to keep some “staple” options that I really enjoy stored in the fridge and pantry as a go-to when needed.
As for the general composition of the snacks, aim for mostly carbohydrate and protein. Fat will likely be in there somewhere which also helps with long-term satiety. Carbs provide energy and protein helps keep you full.
Make sure you choose what you enjoy eating. Don’t choke down foods you don’t like in the name of health!
Keep it simple: make it transportable and convenient.
Also, consider incorporating whole foods: they don’t take much prep time and are packed full of nutrition.
And very important: ensure that any changes you make to your eating don’t feel like “diet rules” you have to follow. Be flexible and strive to rely on your body’s cues.
And last but not least, I will share some snack ideas below that might spark your creativity:
Greek yogurt parfait with granola and fruit
Hard-boiled eggs with queso chipotle dip paired with some fruit
Hummus with veggies or crackers
Apple slices with nut butter
Cubed cheese and grapes
Whole-wheat muffin and milk
Laughing Cow cheese and whole-grain crackers
Whole-grain bread with nut butter and sliced bananas or strawberries
Bagel with cream cheese
Cubed ham/turkey and fruits or crackers
Hopefully, this will shine a light on this topic! And when prepping a snack, don’t hesitate to explore new foods and combinations to please your taste buds while meeting your body’s energy and nutrient needs.