Should we be snacking?
Snacking, it’s the big question I find a lot of people ask me. To snack or not to snack between meals. Will having a snack between a meal help to maintain weight or assist with weight loss or will it have the opposite effect?
A new study out in the Journal of American Dietetic Association found that regular meals and snacks (three main meals and two snacks per day) may assist in weight loss maintenance. There is definitely arguments for and against snacking, unfortunately there is no real strong evidence to 100% support either.
Snacking can be good to complete your diet nutritionally. For example snacking can assist in achieving the extra fibre by having a piece of fruit as a snack, or reaching your calcium requirements for healthy bones by having a yoghurt between your meals. The common mistake I see when people have a snack is what they choose to be their snack.
Some healthy snacks include:
- Fruit – fresh, dried, tinned
- Low fat yoghurt
- Veggie sticks with hommus
- Small handful of unsalted nuts
- Glass of low fat milk
- Boiled egg
- Small tin of tuna
- Wholegrain crackers with low fat cottage cheese
Foods such as biscuits, chocolate, lollies and cakes are not ideal as snacks as they are energy dense due to their fat and sugar contents and will not have the same filling effects as the healthier snacks mentioned above will. These foods are termed ‘empty kilojoules’, meaning they give you extra kilojoules in the diet but nutritionally not much else.
Snacking can be useful to manage hunger levels so you are not left starving hungry prior to a meal and thus overeat at a meal. You don’t however want to fall into the trap of eating a morning tea or afternoon tea snack just because the time says so and not because you are hungry. Also you do not want to eat out of boredom. So listen to your hunger cues and if you do not feel like a snack don’t reach for one. If you are eating out of boredom choose an activity to stop your boredom, one that of course does not include eating, such as going for a walk, calling a friend to have chat, doing the gardening or cleaning the house.
Snacks can also be ideal if you are trying to gain weight. We always talk about people trying to lose weight however there are people out there who find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. So if this is you having snack between meals is essential, choose the nutritious and energy dense snacks such as nuts, cheese and crackers, milk and yoghurt.
Snacks are also important for recovery after sport and fitness. Having carbohydrate and protein based snacks within half an hour of finishing a training session or sporting activity is important for refuelling the body and repair of muscle. Rehydrating the body with fluids is also important. Choose a fruit based smoothie as something easy and you will get the three components within the one snack – protein, carbohydrate and hydration.
Snacks are not essential but you need to choose what is right for you and your lifestyle.