Foodie Friday: Snacking – Is it a Good habit or a Bad habit?
We American’s are notorious for our snacking. We even have an entire food line named after it (Snackwells). My favorite all-time snack has to be: crackers with havarti cheese, hard salami and an ice-cold glass of wine. This is a childhood memory for me and it always makes me feel nostalgic. However, that type of snack can be deadly to a dieter’s goals.
You’ve also probably heard of a popular diet plan that includes several (5 to 6) small meals a day in the hopes that one never finds themselves hungry or “keeps their metabolism humming all day long.” I’m not sure I buy in to that hype, I think that this is a body builder way of eating and I am by no means interested in becoming a body builder. These so called “meals” seem more like elaborate snacks to me, and I just don’t want to eat that way. I much prefer the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner with optional dessert style of eating. Perpetually eating snacks all day will end up making me yearn for a proper meal and therefore I may never be quite satisfied with my snacky small meals. So, what about the traditional snacks?
Traditionally speaking, snacks are meant to slightly curb one’s hunger until the next proper meal. There is a general consensus that we should eat approximately every 4 hours. So, we can use snacks to fill in the gap between meals, especially those meals that may be farther apart than 4 hours.
Personally, I snack in two ways (on a good day!). One way is to only have a snack between lunch and dinner and it should be about 150 -200 calories total. That’s because if I eat lunch at 12:30 and then dinner at 6:30, I will be going longer than 4 hours between those two meals. So that I don’t pig out at dinner, having a snack around 4:00 will help me eat sensibly at my last meal of the day. The other option is to eat an additional snack in between breakfast and lunch as well as the afternoon snack. I choose this option when I have to get up at 6:00 A.M. and eat breakfast at 7. Knowing that my next meal will be at 12:30 or later, I must have something to eat in between or my stomach will be rumbling out loud as it has many times. This only happens when I am working. I am also extra hungry on those days because of my early rising, driving an hour to work, teaching intensely for 4 hours (teaching is an exhausting profession) and so forth. Believe me, I need that extra morning snack! Again, that morning snack is around 150 to 200 calories and I try to make it something that is substantial.
When I say substantial, I mean it has to carry me through until my next meal and not give me a sugar crash thus ruining the rest of my day. (One sugar crash for me, especially early in the day can wreck my eating for the rest of the day.) I often post about snacks I like while watching my weight, and unfortunately, the crackers-cheese-salami-wine choice doesn’t make the list. I often choose things like nuts, 1 oz. of cheese, rice cakes with hummus, fruit and so forth. You can find a plethora of healthy snack ideas all over the web as I know you know.
So that’s what I would call “good snacking.” What about “bad snacking?” That is snacking with abandon – you know, bag of chips, popcorn, crackers, cookies in lap; mindlessly dipping hand in over and over again while watching some type of screen. You may or may not be hungry for these types of foods, but the act of eating is comforting, familiar and down-right fun in the moment. However, as I’m sure you can guess, it is also a great way of packing on the pounds. Healthy snacks should serve a purpose, and if you are weight conscious, you cannot mindlessly snack ever again and expect to lose weight. If you choose to do this, expect the ramifications of that choice.
By the way, if you do go 4 hours and you aren’t hungry, you don’t have to have a snack if you don’t want it. You shouldn’t eat if you aren’t hungry. But be realistic. I know people who say they aren’t hungry, but really are; yet they don’t eat because it is more important for them to be stick thin. Then I watch them sit there with their hands shaking violently because of the dip in blood sugar. BAD IDEA! Shame on you if you do this. Plan your meals better and snack responsibly when necessary. Enough said…