Something that comes up often when working with my clients in the food department is, “Is it OK to have snacks during the day, and if so, what are good snack options?”
Although I get asked this question often, I LOVE talking about how food affects our bodies and how important it is to be mindful with our choices. I also love sharing some of my favorite, super easy, and delicious snacks that help me boost my energy, satisfy my sweet tooth, and/or hold me over in between a meal, so I wanted to give you my thoughts on the topic.
The first part of this question is never a straight yes or no answer and here’s why. Each and every single one of us is different and therefore have different needs and thrive in different ways. Some of us do better with 3 solid meals and no snacks, where as others need to eat every couple of hours or else they get “hangry” (hungry + angry– I know that one well).
When it comes to snacking, or how much to eat each day, it’s not a black and white answer. Certain criteria have to be considered:
Are you eating substantial meals?
Are you drinking enough water?
Are you physically active?
Do you have hypoglycemia and need to eat every couple hours?
Are you truly hungry?
However, here are my general thoughts around snacking. First off– it’s neither “good” nor “bad” to snack and the BEST way to decipher what’s best for you is to listen to your body. You shouldn’t force yourself to eat just because you’ve heard that it’s good to have 6 mini meals a day and you shouldn’t starve because you’re worried that snacking is going to be counterintuitive. If you’re hungry, eat. And if you’re not, don’t.
But, of course it goes a little deeper than that. While there are many times when a snack is needed, there are also some common situations that result in eating something (usually unhealthy) when you’re not really hungry::
1. You’re actually thirsty and hitting the beginning stages of dehydration.
Often times we mistake thirst for hunger and end up trying to “fix” the situation the wrong way. Make sure that you’re drinking enough water to keep yourself hydrated and try having a glass of water before reaching for that snack.
2. You’re tired, so you look for a quick pick me up (had a late night watching a marathon of Empire? I won’t judge… I’ve been there).
When we’re tired though, we often turn to food as the answer (this ties into emotional eating, which I’ll get into in a moment). If that’s the case, drinking water is actually a great solution here as well. Or grab an energizing snack that will give you a healthy boost- something that has protein and healthy fats.
3. You’re dealing with a stressful situation.
As mentioned before, food affects us on an emotional level and therefore when we’re feeling some type of strong emotion (upset, angry, excited) we tend to reach for food as a way of comforting ourselves, rewarding ourselves, or simply avoiding the situation. But, one thing I always tell my clients is, if you eat that cookie, your problem or situation isn’t going to be solved or improved. You’re still going to have to deal with it, and most likely you’ll feel even worse, because you’ve eaten something you didn’t need and that won’t make you feel good. So, give yourself a moment to decompress by taking a few deep breathes, acknowledge what’s going on and allow you’re self to feel what you’re feeling, and decide on a productive way to resolve the issue.
4. You’re bored.
This one happens to the best of us. You have a quiet Saturday in and after a few hours you start to get bored and eat for entertainment. Or work is slow and you snack all day long to pass the time. To help avoid this boredom munching, try the following suggestions:
– Drink water 🙂
– Listen to music
– Get up and move around/ exercise
– Read a book (if you’re at home)
– Take a nap (again, not a great one for work)
– Throw yourself into the moment and do what task you have at hand
– Catch up with a friend
– Get some fresh air
5. You’re distracted.
This is a big one and relates to a favorite topic of mine: mindful eating. When you are in a distracted state you are not paying attention to your food, and therefore you are not experiencing the true enjoyment and satisfaction of what you’re eating. Additionally, you’re probably unaware of how much or how quickly you are eating and end up finishing a whole bag of chips or pretzels without even knowing it. If you notice this happening, turn to your breath by focusing on each inhale and exhale. This will help you reconnect with yourself and the present moment, which will give you more control over the situation and allow you to make smarter choices.
Bottom line, snacking can be great– if it works for your body. Additionally, before biting into that 3PM snack, think about WHY you are reaching for something to eat and ask yourself if you’re truly hungry, or if you’re experiencing one of the other situations mentioned above.
And lastly, do yourself a favor when snacking and choose a HEALTHY snack, so that you’re fueling your body and mind with nutrients and getting the most out of each and every bite. <3
Check out my HEALTHY ON THE GO post for a couple of my go-to, easy snacks!