Also, interesting that I read the snacking article after reading this one....
America's fattest cities
The way I see it, snacking is used for several reasons.
1) To compliment meals - what are you lacking at meals and can you include that in a snack to make the daily diet more balanced?
2) To prevent drops in blood sugar - going too long between meals can encourage a drop in blood sugar. Naturally, the body will crave sugar or "carbs" since the body is "craving" something to boost blood sugar.
3) To satisfy hunger - pre-meal snacking can help cravings and overeating.
4) To give you energy - research shows that with an increase in lean body mass, your body burns more calories at rest. As you work toward building more muscle, keep in mind that the more often you eat, the more likely you may be able to boost the metabolism.
For many people, excessive and high calorie snacking results from meals being inbalanced (for many too high/low in slow digesting, high fiber carbs and in many, too high/low in fat), training/exercise nutrition being inadequate (or not well planned) and popular by many, snacking is out of boredom and not being mindul with the body.
Easy snacks can be anything from sweet sliced and whole fruit, crunchy veggies with dip or a savory piece of dark chocolate, to a more filling snack of popcorn, oatmeal or smoothie.
In planning your snacks, recognize why you are eating them...bored or hungry?
-Can you tweak your prior meals to make it more satisfying. Sometimes a few more grams of fat can help to slow down digestion and focusing a bit more on portioned controlled grains throughout the day can provide a nice balance of fiber and nutrients to keep your tummy (and blood sugar) happy.
-Don't always blame that moment in time for your excessive snacking. Often, I find that it starts with breakfast. Start your day off right by having a balanced and satisfying breakfast and continue to compliment each meal and snack so that by the evening, you feel as if you covered a variety of foods and colors in the diet.
-If you are snacking because you are bored or hungry, that's ok. There's nothing wrong with eating and nothing wrong with feeling hungry. Don't get mad at your body or blame yourself for being "bad". If you do snack because you are bored or hungry, recognize that at any time in the day you can adjust your intake. If you find yourself really hungry mid afternoon and eat more than planned, that's ok. Adjust at the next meal and realize that it doesn't always matter when you eat your calories, but rather where your calories are coming from and how your body uses them throughout the day.
Here are a few snack ideas:
Fruit, dark chocolate chips, sunflower seeds and skim milk on the bottom
Veggie and fruit smoothie (made with kale, milk, strawberries, kiwi and 1/2 orange, mixed with whey protein powder, milk or yogurt and ice)
A salad! Who says a salad is just for meals? Especially in the case of planning for a more "carb-heavy" dinner (like italian, mexican, etc.), compliment that meal by "snacking" on a salad. Be creative with your snacks..try to think beyond PB and crackers (Although WASA and PB make for a yummy snack!)
Fruit, granola, dark chocolate chips and side of greek yogurt (not pictured is yogurt - have fruit salad ready for snacking at any time and keep yogurt in the container and refrigerate until time to eat. This will keep your parfait from getting soggy)
Try this: At eye level in the fridge (for you and eye level for kids if applicable), have 3-4 bowls of washed fruit and sliced veggies. See if you find yourself snacking more on nutrient dense foods if these foods are easy to eat. Often times, we let blood sugar drop and we feel forced to reach for more sugary foods. However, if you allow yourself to snack mindfully and to not fear opportunities to eat balanced snacks (ex. carb choice + protein/fat or a "wholesome" food item), it is more likely that you will feel more energized, more satisfied and most importantly a better relationship with food and your body.
Always ask yourself if you are hungry enough to eat an Apple or a Pear...if you are too full or aren't feeling an apple, you may not be hungry "enough".
And if that doesn't work, just send me an email..I'll help ya out and tell you it's ok to eat that piece of dark chocolate after dinner :)