Recently I was talking to a friend who was trying to eat healthier, and she mentioned how she was always starving. A look at her eating plan showed that she was indeed being very disciplined, but unfortunately she was also denying herself a lot (including solid foods at critical times). I gave her some advice about upping the fiber and solid intake in her diet, but most of all I advocated something I have some to believe is critical in any eating plan: snacking.
The word “snack” has taken on a very negative connotation in our culture. In many Western countries, the idea of a snack generally involves stuff that’s delicious but not so great for you. Cookies, chips, candy or cakes often serve as snacks for people who want that immediate satisfaction of a carb and sugar rush in their bodies. However, many of these “snacks” leave you feeling just as empty as before you ate them, often leading to over-consumption.
Many people trying to lose weight unfortunately wind up overcompensating once they learn this. They swear off all snacking and begin to deny themselves entire meals and the next thing you know, after a couple weeks or so a full out binge occurs, wrecking their eating plan.
The key to eating smart is not denying yourself snacks, it’s snacking on the right things. Many of us know what these things are intuitively. However here’s a list of some handy items that make great snacks:
- A serving of hummus with celery or carrot sticks
- Peanut butter with whole wheat crackers or vegetables
- A piece of fruit (preferably something with a good amount of fiber like an apple)
- A sports bar (but be careful as some have a very high caloric load)
- Cottage cheese with fruit
- Plain yogurt with some honey drizzled on for flavor
- A handful of nuts (not honey roasted or smothered in sugar)
It’s also important not to just eat and eat throughout the day (which is what most people who snack believe they should do). Rather, schedule your snacks according to your meal times. There’s no hard and fast rule since everyone’s schedule is a bit different, but in general, try to schedule your snack a couple hours after a meal and at least an hour or so before your next one. It’s also important to tailor what snack item you choose to your activities. If you’re going to have a very rigorous workout day, then something like peanut butter or a sports bar will help you get the energy you need to plow through the workout. On days where you’re not working out at all, the piece of fruit or vegetables may serve you better.
I would also advise strongly against snacking late at night (unless you work the night shift of course). You want to give your body a couple hours (at least) of digestion time before you go to sleep.
Snacking is a good thing if you do it right. Indeed, if you love food as I do, it’s crucial as it takes away the feeling of “denial” that many associate with weight loss. A good eating plan is about balance, not about seeing how long you can withstand hunger pangs!
Disclaimer: I am not a certified Nutritionist. This advice is purely based on my own experiences and research. Before starting any nutrition/eating plan, please consult a qualified physician.