Snacking has certainly made a bad name for itself. “You’ll spoil your dinner,” “That’s enough snacking before lunch,” and “You may have one more chip before dinner and that’s it.” These are phrases parents tell their children each day, over and over again.
Many parents are snackers themselves. They sneak nibbles and bites throughout the day, and find themselves glancing at the clock every afternoon, wondering if 2 o’clock is an appropriate time to dig into that granola bar in the drawer.
For those of us trying to lose weight, we try to avoid those cravings and stick to a three-meals-a-day diet plan. But is that truly the best way to lose weight? Maybe a snack or two throughout the day can keep us from overeating at dinner. There seems to be a bit of confusion when it comes to snacking; is it good or bad? Here’s the skinny on getting skinny.
Eat Healthy Snacks
Snacking between meals can actually be a good thing. The key to snacking is to make sure you are eating healthy snacks. People often snack on things filled with empty calories, fat, sugar, and salt like potato chips, candy, cake and cookies. These items can curb hunger, but aren’t really giving the body the fuel it needs to get to the next meal. Unhealthy snacks will definitely inhibit weight loss when consumed throughout the day in addition to three hearty meals.
It is important to remember that just because you are on a “diet” that does not mean you should feel hungry all the time. When you choose foods that provide your body with the vitamins and nutrients it craves to function at its best, you are heading down the right track toward a healthy body and a healthy weight.
If you start feeling hungry and it has only been an hour or two since your last meal, perhaps you should first analyze what you ate for the meal. Did you have a quick breakfast of a bowl of sugar-enhanced cereal and run out the door, or grab a chocolate chip granola bar to eat during your commute? If so, then it’s not surprising that you would be hungry already. Try loading up on fresh fruits, a whole grain bagel with some cream cheese, oatmeal, or low-fat breakfast meats the next day to feel the difference. Most likely you can make it an extra hour or longer before the urge for a snack kicks in.
Dieters might often feel hungry when they aren’t truly hungry. Sometimes hunger is the result of boredom, thirst, or even habit. If your body is used to a snack every day at 3 o’clock, it might take a few days to get yourself out of that routine. Try drinking a glass of water when so-called “hunger” strikes. Wait about 10 minutes, and then see how you feel. If you are indeed hungry, choose a healthy snack. Healthy afternoon snacks can include whole-grain crackers and cheese, fruit, vegetables and dip, nuts and seeds, baked chips, or popcorn.
Read Labels Carefully
Learn to read labels carefully. Just because the label is screaming “Low Fat” or “Healthy” doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Stay away from ingredients like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, trans-fats, or sugar listed as the first three ingredients. Read the nutrition label as well, making sure to note the serving size. Many times this can be deceiving, when snack-size bags that most people consume in one sitting are meant to be two or more servings. You have to be smart about labels and the snacks you choose.
Many labels boast of being low in fat, low carbs, or low in sugar. Be careful. Most foods low in carbohydrates have extra fat or sugar, or low sugar foods have artificial sweeteners that can be dangerous. Basically, you have to decide what is more important for you–skimping on the sugar, the fat, or the carbohydrates. You can’t always have it all.
When it comes to snacking, the bottom line is to snack smart. Don’t load up on greasy, salty, sugary snacks in order to achieve weight-loss goals. Don’t deprive yourself of food when hunger does unexpectedly strike between meals. Instead, prepare some healthy snacks in advance that you can carry with you throughout the day, or keep in your desk at work so that when you need one, a healthy choice is waiting for you.
Avoid grabbing anything in front of you in moments of weakness, but if and when that does happen, don’t beat yourself up for it. Carry on as usual, and with time, your healthy snack habits will become ingrained habits and you will achieve your weight loss and fitness goals.