Let's be real, snacking is inevitable. Almost everyone's guilty of it! Snacks are hard to resist because they're perfect as a little treat after work, to eat while you watch a movie, or to distract yourself while you’re doing chores at home. However, there are mixed opinions about snacking...
Some believe snacking is healthy, while others think it's harmful and can cause weight gain. So, is snacking bad for you? Or are there ways you can go about it that won't sabotage your weight and health?
We’ll tell you all you need to know about snacking, the good and the bad, as well as a few ways to make snacking your friend instead of your enemy.
Should you stop snacking?
It really depends on you! If you're the type of person who has a snack, but reaches for more and more then snacking might not be the best for you. Snacking itself isn't harmful, it's when it happens in excess that it can lead to issues like weight gain. It also depends on the types of snacks you eat! Are you reaching for nutrient-dense filling snacks, like fruits and nuts, or are you reaching for chips and ice cream?
Basically, the harm isn’t in eating, but in what you eat and the way that you do it. So, no snacking isn't bad and you don't need to stop snacking, as long as you know how to snack smart!
Healthy snacking can help:
- Keep you satiated throughout the day.
- Help you eat smaller meals.
- Provide extra nutrients.
- Give you a boost of energy.
- May cause unwanted weight gain.
- Can make you lose your appetite.
- Can make it hard to stop and cause binge eating.
This negative side of snacking is what makes people so afraid of it. Fortunately, the downsides of snacking are manageable! So, whether you're trying to lose weight or maintain it, there are ways you can snack smarter to avoid weight gain and other adverse effects.
How to snack smarter
If you’ve decided that you want to stop avoiding snacking and start doing it in a way that works for your goals and your body, here are a few tips that will make snacking work for you.
Take your time eating
Snacking is not a competition! If you’re a fast eater, try to pace yourself and start eating more slowly. One of the biggest mistakes people make when snacking is finishing their snacks too fast because then their left craving for more.
Take your time with it so that your stomach has enough time to send signals to your brain that you’re filling up instead of rushing through it and maintaining that same feeling of hunger. Feel the texture of what you’re eating, take in the flavors, chew it thoroughly, and truly enjoy your snacking time for what it is instead of just trying to get it out of the way.
Similarly, if you snack while doing other things, like watching TV or getting some work done, you might eat faster since you’re distracted and not paying attention to your food. This can lead to accidentally overeating! Try to make your snacking time a peaceful time to enjoy your food while setting everything else aside, and if you do decide to multitask while snacking, make sure you grab a small serving so that you don’t go overboard.
Pre-portion your snacks
Having your snacks already portioned and ready to go will help you avoid overindulging, plus you can take them anywhere!
Pre-packing a few of your favorite healthy snacks, like nuts, fruits or dried fruit, and veggies, in small bags or containers is a great idea for your everyday snacking because you can just go up to your fridge or pantry and grab one without the fear of going overboard. It’s also perfect to keep in your bag when you’re on the go and start feeling hungry, that way you can avoid stopping at a random food place or using the nearest vending machine. Instead, it’ll calm your hunger so that you can get home and cook a healthy meal for yourself or grab some leftovers from the fridge. Just make sure you’re bringing a pre-portioned snack instead of the whole bag because you might be eating more than you previously planned without realizing it!
The best way to fill you up in a healthy manner is by combining different macros in your snack foods! A good mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats will help you feel satisfied for longer.
Complex carbs such as oats and some fruits are great for you because they provide energy for your body, while protein breaks down more slowly to keep you full for longer periods. When you’re choosing a protein, you can also include some healthy fats in there, such as almond butter or chia seeds, which contain both. Pair them with a complex carb like a banana or an apple, which are also high in fiber and will help fill you up, and enjoy a highly satisfying snack!
You can also use your snacks to hit your end-of-the-day macros and make sure that you’re giving your body what it needs every day. When you start tracking your macros, sometimes you’re not able to fill your remaining macros, either because you don’t have time to cook something or because you’re tired and the end of the day is approaching. This is when snacks come in! If you already hit your fat and carbs goal for the day, but still need a few more proteins, you can just grab a high-protein snack like some Greek yogurt or hard-boiled eggs. Or you can plan your snacks along with your meals so that you can fill the gaps in between foods without having to think of the perfect snack at the last second!
And if you’re not counting your macros and don’t know how to start, just go to our Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator, answer a few questions, and we’ll tell you how many of each macronutrient you should be eating as well as the total calories!
Pre-cut veggies and fruits
Make your life easier by chopping and slicing your fruits and veggies when you come back from grocery shopping! Healthy foods look more provocative when they’re in small pieces because you know you can just grab them and eat them, instead of reaching out for a chocolate bar or a bag of chips. Seeing whole celery or some carrots in your fridge will probably make you think twice about eating them, or maybe you won’t even consider it, but if you slice them into small sticks you’ll be more likely to just pick those up and pair them with some hummus or peanut butter for a quick crunchy snack. This is also helpful when pre-portioning your snacks, so give it a try!
And while some people are afraid of eating fruits because of their sweetness, the natural sugars contained in fruits are actually digested and broken down differently than the sugars contained in processed foods, so don’t be afraid to pick up your favorite fruits at the supermarket next time!
Snack only when you're hungry
This is an important one! Determining why you want to snack is key because a lot of the time we snack for the wrong reasons. Snacking out of boredom is a common one, but you can also feel like snacking when you’re feeling angry, sad, or stressed. Emotional eating can drive you to overindulge, so you need to be careful when you feel a craving incoming.
Before you grab anything from the fridge or the pantry, do a quick hunger check - are you truly hungry or you’re just letting your emotions or your boredom affect you? If you’re really hungry, then go ahead and grab your healthy snack, but if you’re bored or feeling negative emotions, try distracting yourself! Get some work done, watch your favorite TV show, and go take a walk… Just stay away from the kitchen while you give time to your body to feel hungry again. And be careful with leaving snacks around your house! It’s better to keep everything out of sight and stored in the kitchen because your mind will make you think you want to eat when in reality you’re just looking to entertain yourself.
Choose according to your cravings
Food cravings are not the same every time. Sometimes you feel like having a creamy snack, something crunchy and salty, or a snack for your sweet tooth… Maybe you don’t have a specific craving and just need something to calm your hunger until you eat again. Determining what kind of craving you have and choosing accordingly will help you feel satisfied more quickly!
Imagine you have a specific craving for something crunchy but instead grab a banana because it’s easier, after you’re finished eating you’ll probably still have that crunchy craving since you didn’t really tackle that craving, you just filled your stomach up. A truly satisfying snack would be something that doesn’t leave you wanting more after you’re done because you have both alleviated your hunger and calmed your cravings at the same time. So, if you’re craving something crunchy, reach for some vegetable sticks, a handful of nuts, or some whole-grain crackers. For sweet cravings, it’s better to go with fruits or some dark chocolate. And if you’re just hungry, try choosing fiber-rich foods that will help you feel satiated after!
You don't need to give up snacking forever
Having a healthy diet is key if you want to achieve your goals, and following these tips will get you on a successful weight loss journey in no time! We know that implementing each one of these can be tough, especially if you’ve been snacking in an unhealthy way most of your life, but don’t worry! You don’t need to do everything at once, just take it step by step until you feel comfortable with your new snacking habits. Knowing that you’re doing what’s best for your body and goals will help you stay motivated in the long run to make healthier snack choices!