I love a good snack! Who doesn’t, right? Something sweet, salty, or both! I’ve been known to grab a handful of cashews, cereal, marshmallows, or the worst… salted caramel baking chips! Now that I have your mouth watering let’s talk some smack about snacks.
Most of us have heard that snacking can be hurtful and cause increased weight gain, but it can also be helpful to dieting. Say what??? There have been many studies completed on snacking, but snacking is actually a hard thing to study. Each person can define snacking differently and the motivation and desire to snack are dependent on each person. However, one thing that does ring true is that nutrient-poor snacking may lead to higher body fat. Mindless snacking, being distracted while snacking, eating without being hungry, or emotional snacking can cause over-indulgence which leads to increased weight gain.
If you are looking to maintain your lean body mass (aka muscle mass) while dieting it is important that you eat protein 5-6 times throughout the day. Which translates to me as… Eat snacks, but with protein! This is where snacking mindfully comes in handy. Sure you could eat 5-6 meals per day, but since you’re reading this, you probably want snacks!
In order for snacks to be helpful to you instead of harmful I have a few tips:
– Snack with purpose.
– Do not eat from the box or tub. Put it on a plate, bowl, napkin.
– Measure/weigh your snack.
– Be engaged with your food while snacking or eating.
– Use a hunger scale to determine true hunger.
– Make sure your snack has protein.
I do strongly recommend that you eat protein with each snack, but if you do find yourself reaching for something else remember this: In one study researchers found that overweight and obese participants ate more snack foods that were filled with sugar and less yogurt and nuts than the normal-weighted participants.
If you are reaching for a quick snack it is better to make it one that is not filled with sugar, but one that is nutrient balanced. Don’t get me wrong, I like a sour gummies every now and again too. However, making it a habit of reaching for the sugar-filled snack over something that is more nutritious and sustainable will set you up for failure.
Here are some quick and easy ideas for snacks:
– Bell peppers with deli turkey
– Quest Protein Chips
– Strawberries and cottage cheese
– Light and Fit Greek Yogurt- coconut is our favorite
– Quest Protein Bars
Hopefully this clears up some of the confusion with snacking and helps you to be able to be more mindful of your snack choices and change some of your habits. Remember 80% nutrient dense foods, 20% less nutrient dense. Some days you have cake as a snack, some days you have turkey… Balance!