Eating snacks can be the greatest thing, especially when it’s something tasty that you really enjoy. They’re perfect as a little treat after work, to eat while you watch a movie, or to distract yourself while you’re doing chores at home. But is snacking bad for you, or is it harmless? ...Or maybe something in between? There are mixed feelings about this, with some people on the side of snacking and others completely against it. For the most part, snacking is seen as a way to sabotage any fitness efforts, particularly weight loss. And struggling with your snacking habits is a very common issue, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t find a way to make it work! We’ll tell you all you need to know about snacking, the good and the bad, as well as a few ways to make snacking your friend instead of your enemy. So let’s start this off with the big question...
Should you stop snacking?
Avoiding snacks is something pretty common, particularly among those who are trying to lose weight, because they are seen as something unhealthy that fills you up with unnecessary calories. The truth is, yes, snacks can be harmful to a weight loss journey, but only if you’re doing it wrong. But this goes for anything! Because a regular meal can be just as harmful if you’re buying heavily processed foods instead of cooking them from scratch with healthy ingredients. So the harm isn’t in eating, but in what you eat and the way that you do it. Snacking has many health benefits, but it also has some downsides. Let’s take a look at the benefits first:
- You stay satiated throughout the day: Fighting hunger is easier when you do it in a controlled manner. Instead of waiting for your next big meal and eating a lot because you’ve been hungry for a while, you can eat small snacks throughout the day that will help you keep your hunger at bay without the risk of overeating.
- You eat smaller meals: Aside from helping you fight hunger and avoid overeating in your next meal, you’ll also start having smaller meals if you make snacking a regular part of your day. This is great for metabolism and digestion since it makes the process more efficient.
- Provides extra nutrients: When you choose healthy snacks, you’re consuming nutrients and minerals that your body needs to keep working properly. If you’re not getting enough nutrients from your foods, snacks are a great way to get a healthy dose of those missing nutrients into your body.
- Gives you a boost of energy: Usually, several hours pass between your meals. By snacking, you make sure that your blood sugar levels don’t drop completely, helping you stay active and energized throughout the day.
As you can see, snacking can be great for your health! In contrast, here are some of the cons that you may encounter when snacking:
- May cause unwanted weight gain: Unhealthy snacks are filled with calories that will take you the opposite way if you’re on a weight loss journey. These are processed and pre-packaged snacks that will hinder your progress and fill your body with added sugars and other additives.
- Can make you lose your appetite: If you don’t control your portion sizes, you’ll end up eating more than you probably planned for. This will make you feel full for a long time, messing with your appetite and making you lose your next meal if you’re still not hungry enough.
- It’s hard to stop: Once you’ve started snacking, particularly if it’s an unhealthy snack that you seriously enjoy, stopping becomes particularly difficult. If you have a bag of chips at hand or a bowl of candy, the temptation may be too strong to contain yourself and this will lead to overindulging.
This negative side of snacking is what makes people so afraid of it. But what if we told you that those cons are manageable and that you can snack without having to worry about gaining extra weight? This is because the key to snacking is to do it in a healthy way that supports your fitness goals by eating healthy foods as your snacks. We have prepared a list with a few tips and tricks that will take care of these downsides so that you can enjoy snacking and take advantage of its health benefits!
How to snack smarter
If you’ve decided that you want to stop avoiding snacking and start doing it in a way that works for your goals and your body, here are a few tips that you can follow to be on track in no time:
Take your time eating
Snacking is not a competition! If you’re a fast eater, try to pace yourself and start eating more slowly. One of the biggest mistakes people make when snacking is finishing your snacks too fast because then you’re left craving for more. Take your time with it so that your stomach has enough time to send signals to your brain that you’re filling up instead of rushing through it and maintaining that same feeling of hunger. Feel the texture of what you’re eating, take in the flavors, chew it thoroughly, and truly enjoy your snacking time for what it is instead of just trying to get it out of the way.
Similarly, if you snack while doing other things, like watching TV or getting some work done, you might eat faster since you’re distracted and not paying attention to your food. And what’s worse, you might overeat! Try to make your snacking time a peaceful time to enjoy your food while setting everything else aside, and if you do decide to multitask while snacking, make sure you grab a small serving so that you don’t go overboard. This takes us to the next point…
Pre-portion your snacks
Having your snacks already portioned and ready to go will help you avoid overindulging, and you can take them anywhere! Pre-packing a few of your favorite nuts, fruits, veggies, or other low-calorie snacks in small bags or containers is a great idea for your everyday snacking because you can just go up to your fridge or pantry and grab one without the fear of going overboard. It’s also perfect to keep in your bag when you’re on the go and start feeling hungry, that way you can avoid stopping at a random food place or using the nearest vending machine. Instead, it’ll calm your hunger so that you can get home and cook a healthy meal for yourself or grab some leftovers from the fridge. Just make sure you’re bringing a pre-portioned snack instead of the whole bag because you might be eating more than you previously planned for without realizing it!
The best way to fill you up in a healthy manner is by combining different macros in your snack foods! A good mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats will help you feel satisfied for longer. Complex carbs such as oats and some fruits are great for you because they provide energy for your body, while protein breaks down more slowly to keep you full for longer periods. When you’re choosing a protein, you can also include some healthy fats in there, such as nuts and seeds, which contain both. Pair them with a complex carb like a banana or an apple, which are also high in fiber and will help fill you up, and enjoy a highly satisfying snack!
You can also use your snacks to hit your end-of-the-day macros and make sure that you’re giving your body what it needs every day. When you start tracking your macros, sometimes you’re not able to fill your remaining macros, either because you don’t have time to cook something or because you’re tired and the end of the day is approaching. This is when snacks come in! If you already hit your fat and carbs goal for the day, but still need a few more proteins, you can just grab a high-protein snack like some Greek yogurt or a protein bar to hit that goal. Or you can plan your snacks along with your meals so that you can fill the gaps in between foods without having to think of the perfect snack at the last second! And if you’re not counting your macros and don’t know how to start, just go to our Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator, answer a few questions, and we’ll tell you how many of each macronutrient you should be eating as well as the total calories!
Pre-cut veggies and fruits
Make your life easier by chopping and slicing your fruits and veggies when you come back from grocery shopping! Healthy foods look more provocative when they’re in small pieces because you know you can just grab them and eat them, instead of reaching out for a chocolate bar or a bag of chips. Seeing a whole celery or some carrots in your fridge will probably make you think twice about eating them, or maybe you won’t even consider it, but if you slice them into small sticks you’ll be more likely to just pick those up and pair them with some hummus or peanut butter for a quick crunchy snack. This is also helpful when pre-portioning your snacks, so give it a try!
And while some people are afraid of eating fruits because of their sweetness, the natural sugars contained in fruits are actually digested and broke down differently than the sugars contained in processed foods, so don’t be afraid to pick up your favorite fruits at the supermarket next time!
Snack only when you're hungry
This is an important one! Determining why you want to snack is key because a lot of the time we snack for the wrong reasons. Snacking out of boredom is a common one, but you can also feel like snacking when you’re feeling angry, sad, or stressed. Emotions often drive you to overindulge, so you need to be careful when you feel a craving incoming. Before you grab anything from the fridge or the pantry, do a quick hunger check - are you truly hungry or you’re just letting your emotions or your boredom affect you? If you’re really hungry, then go ahead and grab your healthy snack, but if you’re bored or feeling negative emotions, try distracting yourself! Get some work done, watch your favorite TV show, go take a walk… Just stay away from the kitchen while you give time to your body to feel hungry again. And be careful with leaving snacks around your house! It’s better to keep everything out of sight and stored in the kitchen because your mind will make you think you want to eat when in reality you’re just looking to entertain yourself.
Choose according to your cravings
Food cravings are not the same every time. Sometimes you feel like having a creamy snack, something crunchy and salty, or a snack for your sweet tooth… Maybe you don’t have a specific craving and just need something to calm your hunger until you eat again. Determining what kind of craving you have and choosing accordingly will help you feel satisfied more quickly! Imagine you have a specific craving for something crunchy but instead grab a banana because it’s easier, after you’re finished eating you’ll probably still have that crunchy craving since you didn’t really tackle that craving, you just filled your stomach up. A truly satisfying snack would be something that doesn’t leave you wanting more after you’re done because you have both alleviated your hunger and calmed your cravings at the same time. So, if you’re craving something crunchy, reach for some vegetable sticks, a handful of nuts, or some whole-grain crackers. For sweet cravings, it’s better to go with fruits or some dark chocolate. And if you’re just hungry, try choosing fiber-rich foods that will help you feel satiated after!
Having a healthy diet is key if you want to achieve your goals, and following these tips will get you on a successful weight loss journey in no time! We know that implementing each one of these can be tough, especially if you’ve been snacking in an unhealthy way most of your life, but don’t worry! You don’t need to do everything at once, just take it step by step until you feel comfortable with your new snacking habits. Knowing that you’re doing what’s best for your body and goals will help you stay motivated in the long run to make healthier snack choices!