Snacking and dieting, can they really work together?
In today’s world, people love to snack. Gone is the mentality of “three meals a day,” and often times in its place is the practice of smaller meals supplemented with snacking. Having snacks can have its downsides though, as it can very easily move into the territory of overeating.
If you’re going to snack throughout the day, what you eat and how much are key factors to consider if you’re looking to maintain a balanced diet and a normal weight.
Why Do We Snack?
Mostly, people snack so that they don’t get hungry during the day, or to satisfy a craving. Others actually use snacking as a means of controlling weight or eat several snacks as a replacement for a traditional dinner. A 2014 Nielsen report showed that 41 percent of North Americans said they ate snacks instead of dinner at least once in a 30-day span.
The most popular snacks, according to the report, included chocolate, chips, cheese and fruit. Fruit came in fifth in the lineup of most popular snacks among those polled, with 55 percent of respondents saying they ate fresh fruit at least once for a snack in the past 30 days.
Crossing The Line
It’s important to be aware when snacking of the line that can be easily crossed. When you start grazing too much or overdoing your portions, it becomes difficult to manage your diet and losing track of how much you’re eating. Because portion control is so important to a healthy diet, over-snacking is something to be conscious of.
The best way to manage snack portions in order to maintain a balanced diet is to keep your snacks to under 300 calories. Try having three small snacks of under 150 calories, and make sure to be aware of why you’re snacking. Are you feeling hungry at random times, even if you’ve just eaten? That could be because you’re either thirsty or you’re emotionally eating.
Balancing Your Snacks
If you’re snacking and health-conscious, it’s just as important to be aware of the food groups in your snacks as it is in your meals. Try to include 2-3 food groups in your snacks — start with a fruit or vegetable, and maybe add in a little protein from a nut butter or cheese. Foods that are rich in protein will make you feel full for longer, meaning you won’t be hungry all the time and will be able to get through the day without snacking too much.
Also try to incorporate some wholesome carbs into your snacks, like whole grains. Good carbs are rich in fiber and give you more energy.
Is Snacking Healthy?
There are conflicting ideas about just how good snacking is for your overall health. A recent study of over 200 adults found that the total number of calories consumed from snacking, as well as how often the subjects snacked, was unrelated to body mass index or the quality of a person’s diet.
The choice of snack, however, played a big role. The percentage of nuts and fruit in a snack was linked to better diet quality, while the snacks like chocolate and other sweets was connected to poor diet quality.
At the end of the day, snacking can be a good way to avoid getting hungry throughout the day and can even improve your diet and health if you’re eating the right foods. Just be aware of how much you eat and try not to overgraze, as it can lead to overeating and have negative effects.