Snacking is practically embedded in American culture. I mean, take a stroll through your local grocery store. How many aisles can you spot that are solely dedicated to snacks? Crackers, chips, frozen treats, snack packs, cookies galore. But, is all this snacking really good for us? Even if we were eating healthy, wholesome foods as snacks, is snacking really that beneficial?
While many nutritionists have recommended the “small meals” style of eating for decades,snacking may not be for everyone. While a solid snack may benefit some in certain circumstances (by all means, you know your body better than anyone else), not everyone’s body may be designed for snacking. In fact, many cultures across the globe don’t snack at all. It begs the question: Do we need all these snacks?
Do you really need a snack?
For some reason, we have a culture of snacking here in the U.S. It is perfectly acceptable and encouraged here to snack on a regular basis. But are a few little hunger pangs really the worst thing? Certainly not—it’s a little uncomfortable, yes, but that’s all.
“Well, I get really cranky when I don’t eat. Seriously, I get the hangries.” I used to believe that too. But, it turns out, I only got hungry-angry when I was snacking regularly and inadvertently missed one of my “fixes.”
Only once I began to practice a moderate form of intermittent fasting and nixed the snacks altogether did I firmly begin to believe that snacking becomes addictive; you get accustomed to that blood sugar rush every few hours. Although weaning myself off snacks was difficult, and there were a lot of hangry moments, I now feel perfectly capable of waiting to eat until my next meal. No mood swings, no unmanageable hunger.
I also eat plenty of good fats and proteins at meals, which helps to keep me satisfied for longer than a carb-heavy meal. For most of us, snacking is habitual, not hunger induced. When I used to snack I didn’t need a snack, I just wanted one. There are times when a nutritious pick-me-up is necessary, but snacking doesn’t need to be a regularity.
Are you respecting meals?
“No cookies. You’ll ruin your dinner.”
Parents across the country have all said this at one point or another. But, as adults, do we listen to our own advice? Not always.
Snacking can and does often ruin our meals. We get a little hungry an hour before mealtime and we gobble up a nutritionally-lacking snack, filling our belly pre-meal. By mealtime, we are less hungry and fill our bodies with less nutrients. Sit down to a meal in lieu of a quick snack and take the time to truly experience and enjoy it. Food is a wonderful thing. Let it flood your senses indulgently at mealtimes. You’ll realize snacking and grazing on bits and bites simply can’t quite compare.
Does snacking actually stabilize blood sugar?
Not for everyone. While some people may benefit from the smaller, more numerous meals often recommended by nutritionists, others benefit from eating less regularly. Snacking can actually screw with blood sugar levels more than abstaining from food. If you think something like a quick bowl of cereal will tide you over until the next meal, think again. Most cereals are incredibly sugary and will spike your blood sugar, leading to an inevitable crash. Not so stabilized. If you are really hungry and absolutely cannot wait until your next meal, it is best to opt for a snack with a strong protein or fat presence. Think tomatoes drizzled with salt and olive oil, a bit of lean protein or some almond butter with veggies. Consider it more as a fourth, small meal than a ‘snack.’
Do you ever take a break from digesting?
By consistently snacking, we encourage our digestive systems to be constantly working. If the majority of energy is going into digestion, it’s not going in to revitalizing other areas. Believe it or not, it’s actually good to give your system a break. Constantly putting nourishment into your stomach is unnecessary. Give it a try. After a while, you may notice you actually feel more energetic when not snacking.
Do you feel like you need your precious snacks? Snacking may be more of an addiction for some of us than anything else. If you experience withdrawals and mood shifts if you don’t get your 3pm cookie fix, it may be wise to play with restricted snacking to get a sense of whether or not your body actually needs so many snacks. Don’t worry, snacking once in a while is fine. Just don’t get addicted to our snack time culture.