Good morning friends – today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite subjects: snacking! I’ve received a lot of questions over the years, including:
- Is snacking healthy?
- What are some filling, easy snack ideas?
- How often should I be snacking?
- Is a late night snacking unhealthy?
The essence of snacking is that it’s meant to tide us over between meals. In order to follow a consistent meal pattern every day, we should eat every 2-3 hours (which normally includes 2-3 snacks per day). This recommendation is not a universal recommendation as we all have different needs, but I do think it’s safe to say that the average eater may benefit from a similar pattern.
- 6AM-7AM – Breakfast
- 9AM -10AM – Snack #1
- 12PM-1PM – Lunch
- 3PM – 4PM – Snack #2
- 6PM-7PM – Dinner
- 8PM-9PM – Snack #3
Recognizing hunger and fullness
Snacking often has a negative connotation, but healthy, smart snacking will benefit you and your body. Snacking prevents us from becoming so ravenous that we overeat and/or choose foods that provide more comfort than nutrients (i.e. high sugar, high fat foods). When we honor our hunger cues, we are able to maintain our energy levels, concentrate on tasks, and provide our bodies with the energy and nutrients it needs to function optimally.
Late night snacking
One of the most commonly asked questions that I receive is: will I gain weight if I snack at night? Here’s my answer: if you’re going to bed at 2AM every night and feeling hungry and snacking, my recommendation is to go to bed earlier and cut out that late-night snack. However, if you’re going to be at 9PM-10PM and eating dinner at 6PM, it’s okay to have a small, healthy snack before bed.
We start to see issues when:
- people eat late at night out of habit
- people choose energy-dense, low-nutrient snacks
- people snack at night because their dinners were not composed in such a way to sustain fullness
However, research shows that eating carbs at night actually helps us sleep better. Plus, our bodies are miraculous machines that can still process and use those carbs, even when we’re sleeping. Stating that snacking at night contributes to weight gain is a broad overstatement. I will never recommend that people ‘stop eating carbs after 8PM.’ That statement is too simplified and may change daily depending on an individual’s meal patterns and choices throughout the day.
Components of a healthy snack
Snacks should always include a protein source. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, protein + fat are the two macronutrients that help sustain fullness. Simply eating carbohydrates as snacks will keep us the least full (however, if you’re an athlete and snacking before a workout, it is recommended the you eat a carbohydrate snack. Why? Quick energy! Our bodies need that energy to perform optimally during the workout). Here are some basic, easy rules to following for snacking. Each snack should consist of a:
- Carbohydrate + Protein + Healthy Fat or
- Carbohydrate + Protein
Healthy, portable, filling snack ideas
- Carrots, snap peas, cucumbers, peppers (carbs) + hummus (protein)
- Apples (carbs) + nut butters (protein/fat)
- Greek yogurt (protein/fat) + granola (carb) + fruit (carb)
- Avocado (fat) + toast (carb) (okay, I make an exception for this combination 😉 )
- Whole wheat crackers (carbs) + deli meat (protein) + cheese (protein)
- Beet chips or kale chips (carbs/protein) + yogurt sauce (protein)
- Whole wheat cracks (carbs) + roast red peppers (carbs) + goat cheese (protein)
- Celery sticks (carbs) + peanut butter (protein/fat)
- Banana (carb) + peanut butter (protein/fat)
- Roasted chickpeas (protein) + fruit (carbs)
- Watermelon (carbs) + mint + pistachios (protein/fat)
- Cheese stick (protein) + handful of almonds (protein)’
- Zucchini parmesan chips (carbs/protein)
- Roasted edamame (protein) + fruit (carbs)
- Hard boiled eggs (protein) + fruit (carbs)
- Roasted brussel sprouts (carbs) + yogurt dip (protein)
- Sweet potato chips (carbs) + yogurt dip (protein)
- Veggies (carbs) + avocado dip (healthy fat/protein)
- Whole wheat toast/crackers (carbs) + ricotta (protein) + fruit (carb)
Questions or suggestions?
Leave ’em below, and hopefully this was helpful!