Is it healthy to snack all day? Is snacking bad for weight loss? Why aren’t the answers to diet questions ever straightforward?
In short, no snacking is not bad for you. It’s the type of snacks that get you in trouble. Frankly, spun the right way, snacking could account for missed opportunities. (We’re talking about snacking as an additional chance to work in veggies and fiber into our otherwise carb and protein-heavy diets.)
We could, and will, call this mindful and intuitive snacking. If you feel hungry, eat, but not chocolate. However, a piece of dark chocolate a day could have an anti-aging effect. Food is the best preventive medicine there is.
On the flip side, If you aren’t careful choosing low-quality snacks will make healthy living difficult. Debunking the 100 calorie snack pack means understanding a calorie is not just a calorie. Researchers found, (and this is mirrored in countless areas of our lives) quality wins out over quantity. It wins almost every time. The researchers concluded three things about the helpfulness of snacking:
“Future dietary weight-loss interventions should evaluate [take into consideration] the effects of [snacking] _______ on weight loss.” (Know when, how often, and what to snack on and you can do it without being unhealthy.)
What could be a disadvantage of cute, bite-sized cookies with the guarantee of 100 guilt-free calories? Several things. “When I did buy the packs [100 calorie snack packs] I would often eat 3 in one sitting because I just didn’t feel full,” says Angela Liddon, New York Times bestselling cookbook author. “But those days are now long behind me. I chose not to buy 100-calorie packs and instead eat whole, real foods free of chemicals, high fructose corn syrup, and the like.”
The fact is, no matter how marketable a snack pack is, it does not satisfy hunger nor does it help you form healthy relationships with food. Diets are out, lifestyles are in, and snack packs are out. Snacking could nourish and be helpful, supporting you on your journey to wellness.
From the infamous 100 calorie snack packs to the Washington Post’s recommended 200-300 calories, and 500 calorie mini-meals, snacking can remain a fuzzy concept. Even if we have debunked the snack pack, a banana falls just short of the 100 calorie snack line at 105 cal. You see 100 calories isn’t a bad guideline to try out when integrating healthy snacking into your diet; however, what those 100 (or 200 or 300) calories are made of matters, a lot.
How satisfying your snack is can determine the success or failure of wellness goals.
Snacks, if you choose to eat them, could look like this:
- Oatmeal. Packs of instant oatmeal fall around the 200-300 calorie range. The grain is packed with protein and fiber. Eating oatmeal as a snack is a power move.
- Cheese and Dried meats. An ounce of dried jerky is about 116 calories and high in protein. Cheese rates 146 % on The Satiety Index, (how full food makes you feel) and supports bone health. One ounce of cheese is roughly 114 calories.
- Bananas. They are high in fiber and meet around 9% of the RDI for potassium. Most individuals could eat a banana (or two) a day and be fine.
- Pears. This fruit is high in fiber, with 7 grams of fiber and 102 calories per serving.
- Dark chocolate. This one is a winner for the active bunch; not for its calories (150-170 kcals per ounce), but for its nutritional boost to athletic performance. Yes! We said what we said. Epicatechin, a flavanol that’s potent in chocolate (with minimal dairy) increases the nitric oxide levels in the body. A study observed that boosted nitric oxide from consuming dark chocolate, “dilates blood vessels and reduces oxygen consumption — allowing athletes to go further for longer.”
Planning your snacks the night before, and not eating them, is what we call strategic snacking. Planning and executing is how you win. Mini meals are best when planned since they can go from mini to regular, and just right to five pounds of weight gain. There are several ways to be healthy and reach your goals, whether you’re a no-snacker, snacker, or eating five to six times a day. And these options exist because we all live extraordinarily different lifestyles with complex biological systems. What works for Sam will not work for Pam.
Let’s say you have eight hours between lunch to dinner. Recently you’ve been feeling sluggish and irritable around 3 p.m. you should try eating… a mini-meal! A classic example of a mini-meal that feels snack-ish:
- Avocado toast, with an egg, on wheat bread. Food Network toots avocado as being the healthy sibling to other toast-topping options, like jam and butter. The going rate for avocado toast, with an egg, on wheat, is around 260 calories, using ⅓ an avocado (80 calories). Using half of an avocado (130-160 calories) will bump it up to roughly 310-340 calories and so forth. If you use ⅓ an avocado on each slice, you’re over the 500 calorie mark at roughly 520 calories. Two slices of avocado toast then make for a cozy mini-meal.
Other ways to mini-mealing, call for a tight pre-planned schedule. It’s easy to end up eating too big of meals and wind up with *results you are not after*. A pre-planned method calls for around five to six meals a day, with each being on the smaller side. You’ll eat every two to three hours. These smaller, more conscientious meals can help aid metabolism and regulating blood sugar levels, says the Cleveland Health Clinic. “Skipping meals will lead to a decreased energy levels, a drop in blood sugar, and a slower metabolism.”
We talk about calories as a unit of measurement for those relearning proper proportions, but that’s it. They should not be your one and only factor when preparing a snack or meal. The nutritional value should always come first since that’s what gives you energy, clear focus, and alertness. It’s okay if snacking does or doesn’t work for you, eat intuitively until you find your rhythm, and as always listen to your body.