Make wise choices when you snack
Q: I have recently read that it’s best to stick only to main meals and not snack through the day, is this true? Thanks, Kelly.
Snacking suits some people’s dietary needs while not others. Some people feel fantastic eating three main meals each day while others make better choices and eat an amount that is more appropriate to their needs by eating five or six smaller meals per day. The key is to notice how YOU feel.
A common challenge many people describe with snacking is what they can choose when they are in a hurry. Why you’re snacking also plays a part. Is it genuine hunger or are you meeting an emotional need?
Since our stomach stretches to accommodate food, it then expects the same amount of food because it has become used to being stretched to this size. It is therefore best not to overeat at our other meals simply to avoid snacking. Some people won’t need snacks between their meals because they won’t be hungry, but
others will need to keep their blood sugars stable and need to have something handy to snack on.
There are two main things to consider here.
Firstly, if we are eating real, whole food and making sure the meals we choose are full of nutrients, including some kind of good fat and protein, we are likely to be sustained by that meal for longer. If, for example, you’re eating a banana or a piece of toast and a coffee for breakfast, you’re most likely going to be starving and need something to sustain you to get you through to lunch. On the other hand, if you have a breakfast of eggs, avocado, some greens and a handful of nuts and seeds you’re likely to feel fuller for longer and may not need the snack.
Most people fall into the first example category and eat on the run, choosing foods that aren’t going to sustain them. Then they get to morning or afternoon tea time and they’re so ravenous they’re about to eat their own arm off and they need something fast. In these circumstances, the snack choice we make is often going to be something sugary or simple carbohydrate based since our body prompts us to look for the thing that’s going to give us the most amount of energy as quickly as possible.
The second thing to consider is the type of snack we choose. If we don’t eat sufficiently at breakfast or lunch our body is probably going to be screaming for quick fuel and we’ll want to reach for that muffin or those chocolate covered biscuits. Regardless of whether we’ve eaten well for breakfast and lunch or not, if we
reach that midpoint between meals and find we’re not going to be able to hold out till the next meal time, we still have the opportunity to choose something nourishing to snack on.
A small handful of nuts or half an avocado with some good quality crackers or vegetable sticks dipped into hummus will be much better snack choices to maintain our blood sugars and see us through to the next meal than a couple of biscuits and another coffee.
Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional. Visit drlibby.com.
If we eat real, whole food and make sure the meals we choose are full of nutrients, including some good fat and protein, we are likely to be sustained by that meal for longer.