I often get asked snacking is good or if snacking is a bad habit that slows down weight loss. The short answer is that “it depends” and the longer answer is what you are going to read next.
There are two school of thought when it comes to weight loss and snacking. The first school of thought is that eating snacks helps to regulate your appetite and helps to stabilise your blood sugars through the day. This, it is argued, stops you from over eating at meal times and makes it easier for you to make good choices at your main meals
The other school of thought is that snacking actually wreaks havoc with your blood sugar control – leaving you needing a constant food source to prevent sugar dips (hypoglycaemia) – you know that feeling you get when you “have to eat” when you feel so hungry that you feel shaky. This argument also goes on to say that unless you are leaving 5 hours between meals then there is little opportunity for your body to go into fat burning mode.
So, what’s the answer then? To snack or to power through to the next meal? The advice that I give to my clients is to let their own bodies be their guide. Some people fair better when they snack and others do much better when they drop snacking altogether. So, with that in mind here are my top snacking tips:
- Pick your snacks based on their nutritional value – not on their calories. A snack bar aimed at dieters may offer a chocolate fix for a mere 120 calories but it will be packed full of artificial non-food ingredients.
- Check in with why you are snacking? Is it habit or hunger? Are you tired and using snacks to get you through? Are you feeding an emotion rather than hunger?
- Most of your snacks should be low in calories and high in nutrients. Fruit is an excellent choice. If you like crudities then they are a great choice too (but skip the dips).
- Limit higher calorie snacks to once per day or less. This could include nuts, seeds, nut/seed bars, rice cakes, dark chocolate, natural unsweetened yoghurt.
- Check your hydration levels – are you hungry or just thirsty?
- Snacking needs to fit in with your overall calorie intake. So any calories taken up by snacks need to be offset by the calorie content of your other meals. The larger your main meals, the less room there is for snacking – the choice of how to balance out your days calories is up to you.
As a final note, if you can get through the day without snacks then I tend to recommend that you do this. It’s a quick and easy way to reduce your calorie intake without making lots of changes to your diet. BUT, for some people they are more successful at losing weight when they snack – just make sure that they are healthy nutritious snacks that are not tripping up your weight loss efforts.