Snacking as part of a healthy living diet
How to enjoy snacking without weight gain as part of a healthy living diet
Snacking gets a lot of bad press as it’s typically thought of as simply eating high-calorie foods between meals when you don’t really need them. But when done mindfully, snacking can actually be a great way to boost your diet with vitamins and nutrients and keep you in great health. Contrary to popular belief, snacking doesn’t have to equal a weight gain either.
Does snacking really cause you to gain weight?
Actually, no it doesn’t. While eating highly-processed or high sugar foods will of course lead to weight gain, eating healthier, more considered snacks can keep your weight steady, and may even help you to lose it! Studies have shown that snacking can actually reduce hunger, which can in turn lead to an overall lower consumption of total calories throughout the day1 and, by choosing protein-rich, high-fiber snacks, it may even help you to lose weight.2
Snacking keeps blood sugar stable
Snacks with a high level of protein have been indicated in studies to improve blood sugar control.3 It’s important to learn to listen to our bodies and, particularly when we have busy lifestyles and are rushing about, hunger is not something that is wise to ignore. Real hunger – not simply a craving for something that takes your fancy – is an indication that our bodies are lacking in energy and are in need of more calories in order to function optimally.
Preventing hunger and avoiding bad food choices
When you go too long without eating, it increases the likelihood that you will then eat more calories than you need as you may feel the urge to reach for a quick hit of energy from something like a chocolate bar. There are plenty of alternatives that taste just as good though, which will still satisfy your cravings for sugar and don’t have to leave you feeling guilty for making a bad food choice.
Healthy snack alternatives
Knowing what foods are healthy for you is key and the number and type of snacks you might need will vary depending on your lifestyle and how long it is going to be until your next proper meal. If you’re very active for example, you might need two to three snacks each day, whereas if you lead a more sedentary lifestyle, you may only need the occasional snack.
However often when you snack, the important thing is to try and choose something that will satisfy your hunger or your craving for a certain type of food, and will balance your blood sugar and increase your energy until your next meal. Energy bars are a great alternative to a regular chocolate bar, biscuit or cake as they contain all the enjoyment of a chocolate bar, but with healthier ingredients that are not going to cause the same spikes in your blood sugar.
Practicing mindfulness when snacking
We are hard wired to enjoy the tastes of many high-calorie foods so it’s difficult to resist them even when we are not hungry. Studies have even shown that the most common reason for choosing unhealthy snacks is not hunger or low energy, but simply temptation.4 It can take practice, but if you can learn to recognize true hunger and distinguish it from stress eating, boredom eating, or simply a craving for something you love the taste of, snacking can become a way to keep your blood sugar levels steady and maintain a constant flow of steady energy throughout the day, without any peaks or troughs. If you do need to snack though, listen to your body and reach for a healthy piece of fruit, a handful of nuts or seeds or a nutritious energy bar.