Is Snacking Good For You?

August 5, 2011   13 Comments

Snack Girl loves the photo above because it typifies how we abuse snacking. Mindless eating in front of the TV!

Is Snacking Good For You?

Put the chips DOWN, sir, and just watch the TV. Or, turn off the TV, and enjoy your chips!

For 2 years, I have read just about every piece of information I can find about snacking - from scientists, nutritionists, journalists, and even snack product marketing professionals.

My conclusion, so far, is that the way we snack in the U.S. is not healthy. An important snack habits study has shown that we are eat 350 more calories per day from SNACKS now than we ate 20 years ago.

This is not a healthy trend because as a nation because one out of three of us is overweight or obese. So, snacking on high calorie, low nutrient food is not good for you.

Now, for those of us who have managed to put the chips down (some of the time) - is snacking good for you?

I would say, yes! A healthy snack that does not add to your overall daily calorie intake but helps sustain you is a good thing. I would also say that being hungry for a while isn't such a bad thing either.

What many nutritionists advise is that a healthy snack between meals will stop a person from binge eating when they get super hungry. Basically, the regulation of calorie intake is easier with a healthy snack than without one.

That snack should be between 100-150 calories and consist of a mini-meal - for example not just an apple but an apple with peanut butter.

Personally, I find this to be true. For example, between breakfast (7 AM) and lunch (12 PM), I will have a snack around 10 AM of (for example) a hard boiled egg or a banana with a little peanut butter.

This morning snack keeps me going and thinking so I can write the words on this computer right now. Otherwise, I start to get really hungry and begin gnawing on my keyboard (not pretty).

Without that snack, I find that I am grumpier. Now, I am not the kind of person that obsesses about food and I don't keep tabs on whether my lunch has 100 fewer calories because of my snack - but I will say that I eat faster when I am painfully hungry and do not enjoy my food.

In this context, snacking is healthy.

But, most of the time, we are just running around grabbing something because we didn't plan and we know we can get a sugar, fat, salt fix just about anywhere we turn.

If this is your pattern, it is time to say, "No, I will not grab a Frappucino because I walk by Starbucks at 3 PM."

There has been research that suggests that 6 small meals a day is better for metabolism, etc. than three meals a day. But, who in THIS culture is going to have six small meals a day?

The "three meals plus snacks" eating construct is the social norm here in the U.S.A. and to live outside that framework would be very difficult.

So, is snacking good for you? Yes and no. Snacks have become a societal problem that add to our growing waist lines. If we all stopped junk food snacking, we would be much better off.

And, yes, snacks can be a great part of a healthy diet as long as you pay attention to what you put in your mouth.

What do you think of snacking? Is it a healthy or unhealthy practice?

Want to read about snacks?
Agave Nectar: of Gods or of Hype?
Starbucks Bistro Box: A Grab and Go Under 500 Calorie Lunch
Chill Out With Some Watermelon Tomato Soup
Fall In Love With A New Whole Grain

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I try to keep my snacks healthy and prefer that they have little impact on my blood sugar. Snacks I eat currently: Glucerna snack bars (These are formulated for diabetics like me. There are a couple that actually taste good!), popcorn, apples, peanuts (a 1 oz packet), and occasionally a Quest bar or Gnu bar.

I like this line of yours Snack Girl: "I would also say that being hungry for a while isn't such a bad thing either."

It seems that when people think they get a little hungry they MUST have something right away, and it usually ends up being more than they need. I am all for a healthy snack when I can, but I'm not going to panic if I forget either. Food will be available later!

My first choice is usually water, if I am busy, sometimes the hunger goes away and I can wait till the next meal. If not, then it's usually one of the items from my list above.

Great post, thank you! :)

I too have a late morning snack ~ yogurt and a square of 72% dark chocolate with a cup of green tea. My body is so used to consuming it that if I miss it, you don't want to be near me. Thanks for your post!

I'm a big fan of sensible snacking. My go-to picks are usually either a light string cheese (I love the WW smoky flavored one), which is a good bit of protein, a hard boiled egg, sugar free Jello (only 10 calories!), or sugar free sweet pickles, which are a nice tangy crunch for minimal calories (and less sodium than dill, which are also tasty).

I am really trying to do good about healthy snacking. When I first started trying to lose weight, I cut out snacking altogether and found myself starving, which led to me pigging out more between meals and getting nasty headaches. Now, I am trying to do healthy snacks in between breakfast and lunch, and lunch in dinner. For example, yesterday I brought 18 baby carrots and a small cup of hummus to work with me to eat before lunch, and before dinner I enjoyed a banana with peanut butter. Perfect!

I have to snack, otherwise I don't meet my calorie needs for the day. I thought I ate too much but when I actually started tracking my calories it turned out I was eating too little. I've actually started losing weight once I started snacking. My cousin eats every two hours to keep his metabolism working, he's the smallest I've seen him in more than a decade.

Snacking is definitely healthy if you do it right. I have had to battle my weight all my life. Grazing works. I have egg whites for breakfast around 7:30. At 9-9:30 I have a piece of fruit. I have a lunch that consists of protein, vegetable and a small piece of fruit. I have a snack of 90-100 calories around 2:30. I have a small dinner and a snack at about 8:30pm. Normally my night snack is a protein shake as I work out with weights 4 times a week. I find by eating this way I am never hungry and continue to lose because my metabolism stays even.

Once again, you save the day be being sensible! So rare these days. What has helped me is to recognize the difference between a "snack" which should tide you over to the next meal and a "treat" which should not happen often. This has improved my snacking a lot! Have a great weekend.

I usually get really hungry around 3 or 4. I like the weight watchers cheese sticks or sometimes I will have the low fat microwave popcorn. I always keep little bags of almonds (from Trader Joes)with me too. A small bag is a great snack and surprisingly filling!

My go-to snack is usually fruit such as a plum, a few cherries, a peach and in the winter an apple or half a grapefruit. Sometimes it's a small piece of cheddar cheese. On occasion I'll give into a craving and eat the Chester Cheetah Puffs. As far as snacking; I've been training for a 10K walk and haven't been snacking as much during the day. Some nutritionists say eating six small meals a day is more natural which negates the idea of snacks. Perhaps if snack meant something good instead of the pervasive idea that snack means eating overly-processed food mindlessly it would lose this negative definition.

I love snacking all day and always wondered if that was healthy. I rarely eat big meals... I just eat whenever I feel hungry. Since the easiest things for me to snack on are fruits, vegetables, cottage cheese, peanut butter and boiled eggs, those are absolute staples in my fridge! As long as my apartment doesn't have chips, candy, etc. I barely ever think to eat them. I do wonder if I'm missing anything nutritionally since I basically eat mostly uncooked food all day.

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