Do you wonder about snacking and does it REALLY fit into a healthy diet? Shouldn't we just eat healthy meals with enough macros to get to the next one?
I've spoken with thousands of people over the past couple years at events and demo tables about their snacking trying to find the common habits, pitfalls, successes and desires. I have found that many people feel some level of guilt in snacking. I thought, if we could crack the code for this, we could deliver the perfect snack and everyone would stay on their nutrition game. It turns out that there are many common themes with people and their snacking but their individual lifestyles, nutritional needs and food desires are as varied as the number of snack products on the market.
Here are my top 3 reasons to snack for someone committed to eating healthy:
1. The physical need of the body to take in nutrients. Duh. If you are on the go and are not going to sit down for a meal for 6 more hours but still have to finish at the office and want to hit the gym to get your workout in before you go home, you might need a snack. You'll get more out of your workout and feel better after.
2. Substituting a healthy, satisfying snack for an unhealthy snack. Many of us have those times of day or activities that always feel like we need a little something extra. For me its in the evening between dinner and bedtime. For others it may be a road trip or the afternoon in the office. The body may not need food, but we feel compelled to eat something sweet. I have learned that rather than completely deny this, its better (for me) to have some better options that won't leave me feeling like I failed my plan. For me these are a rotation of Paleo cookies, almond butter or dark chocolate squares. My personal tip is to eat something with some fat in it for a satiating effect.
3. Avoiding the "too hungry" zone. To me the "too hungry" zone is when you have not eaten enough since the last meal or throughout the day and you are now highly susceptible to bad nutrition decisions. For me a couple examples have been: deciding to stop at a drive thru for fast food on my way home rather than waiting to prepare a proper meal, and going to the grocery store when I am too hungry ( I buy junk food). These may be different for each person but we've all been there. Its good to stay out of this zone.
Successfully snacking while staying on your nutrition game requires some self awareness and planning. A food journal is a good way to keep yourself honest about your actual behavior. I've found myself thinking Im eating healthier than I really am until I start logging everything I eat.
No one is perfect nor should we be. Food should provide enjoyment and satisfaction while allowing us to pursue our higher life goals like health, fitness, and longevity. Snacking is part of the equation and doing it smartly can really help stay on track.