Reader Q&A: I’m trying to lose weight – should I avoid snacking?
Hands down, snacking is a huge place where people tend to get it all wrong when it comes to managing their nutrition and weight. As I’ve mentioned before, snacking is a topic that always comes up with clients. It’s something we all do … and usually not very well.
One of the reasons that Nutrition Month 2019 includes a theme of Understanding food’s potential to fuel.
Did you know that 30% of Canadians say they snack in order to stay fuelled for their busy days?
My guess is that those snacks are not great choices either … because during those busy days, you don’t have time to plan meals never mind plan snacks. Those especially are the days when you’re grabbing something, anything, because you’re so so hungry.
So my question is: how good is that fuel you’re putting into your body to keep you nourished and going through the day?
Why snacking is important
For some people, having snacks in the day is a must – perhaps as part of a well-planned eating pattern to manage a medical condition. For many other people though snacking means eating last-minute, spur-of-the-moment, because it’s-laying-around food. And that’s not even to mention the bored, tired, angry, happy, disappointed, lonely, content etc snacks we eat.
For so many of us in the mid-life years, snacks are rushed, unintentional, unplanned, mindless … or maybe even full of anxiety, especially if you’re trying to watch your weight.
There are a lot of things we’ve been told about snacking – you don’t want to ruin your supper, eat less to lose weight, small frequent meals are better, etc. The one thing missing for most people though? That snacks are an opportunity.
This seems obvious when I put it in the context of planning snacks for my little person at home or when working with seniors in long-term care. Snacks for these groups of people are extra ways to get just a little more nutrition in.
Snacks, when planned to balance the rest of our day’s eating, provide the perfect opportunity to:
- keep your blood sugars level
- prevent becoming ‘beyond’ hungry
- get extra vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein, water
- give you an energy boost
- help you avoid eating anything in sight
And these points are especially important for people trying to control their weight. If you are limiting your food, all of the above can become hurdles that pop up to sabotage your efforts.
Top 5 healthy snacking tips when watching your weight
Plan ahead. Plan snacks into your meal plan for the day or week. Have them on hand – especially when/where you find yourself the hungriest! Grab your planned snack instead of heading to the vending machine.
Snack with intention. Snacking should be purposeful, planned and conscious. Listen to your body’s hunger cues, just as you would when eating a meal. If you’re not actually hungry, you might not need that snack you’re having ‘because the clock tells you it’s time to be hungry’.
Fill up on veggies. Since Canadians don’t eat enough veggies, consider this your opportunity to add in more.
About beverages. Snack time is an opportunity to check-in with your hydration level. Drink some water while you’re up getting that snack. And don’t forget that many beverages contain extra sugar or calories that are often missed if you’re tracking your intakes for the day.
Stock up on the right containers. Get yourself some assorted snack containers … for multiple reasons:
- they’re snack-sized
- they’re reusable so you can buy food in bulk and cut down on plastic packaging
- when you fill them with foods from your kitchen, you’re also cutting down on the unhealthy choices while having more ‘high nutrition density‘ foods (aka foods packed with lots of good stuff for your body, leaving less room for the not-so-healthy stuff)
Here are of my current favourite snack holders:
Sistema has become one of our family favourites because they have a wide variety of leak-proof and perfectly sized compartment container systems that work well together. Reusable cloth snack baggies are also so handy for dry snacks and can be tossed in the wash.
(*no affiliations or endorsements, I just like them!)
A week of healthy snack ideas
Here are some ideas for items to include in your snack plans this week.
- veggies and hummus
- fruit and yogurt
- apple with peanut butter
- small handful of nuts and dried fruit
- tuna with crackers
- cheese and grapes
- homemade raisin bran muffin
How do these look compared to the snacks you usually have? What other ideas do you have for snacks?
Feature recipe from Nutrition Month 2019
With dates blended into this delicious milk-based pudding, you don’t have to sacrifice sweetness and also gain fibre along with protein, calcium and vitamin D … all nutrition that you won’t get from a store-bought pudding cup. And when you make it yourself, you can customize as you want … including replacing the peppermint flavour if the chocolate and mint combination isn’t really your thing or switching the type of milk you use.
So should I be eating snacks or not?
Snacks are an important part of an overall healthy eating pattern – for all people, regardless of your nutrition or weight goals.
Does it mean that everyone has to have snacks, everyday? No. This is where looking at your personal situation and goals becomes essential to help you understand how snacks could be added into your eating pattern to have the biggest benefit. Your plan should be as individual as you are.
To answer this reader’s question:
No, I wouldn’t recommend avoiding snacks in order to manage you weight.
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Angela Hubbard is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) with 10 years experience working in the field of nutrition. Her work focuses on empowering people with young minds and aging bodies as they enter their retirement years and beyond. In her off time she loves swapping recipes, creating and exploring Northern BC life with her young family.