When I took my first eating style quiz, I found out that I was a “Steady Snacker.” No, surprise – my daily decisions consist of what meals and snacks will be on the menu, when I’ll incorporate them, and whether they will be sweet or salty.
Plus, it brings me pure joy to organize my pantry like The Home Edit so that snacks are front and center for easy picking.
But, I often hear people say that they want to cut out snacks when trying to reach their health goals. Pause, say what?! The thought alone cuts deep for me.
So, the question I always follow up with is, “well, do you think snacking is inherently bad for you, or do your think the way you do it may be the problem?” The most common answer? “Well, I’m not sure.”
Fortunately for them (and you all), I get chills being able to educate on the truth behind fun stuff like this! So let’s get into the deets about snack facts.
Are snacks good for you?
Let’s rip the band-aid off. No. Snacks in and of themselves are not bad for you. But, I understand that this may be an immediate turn-off for those who believe all snacks are junk food.
- Snack – In general, this can be any food or beverage you consume in-between meals, regardless of composition and nutrient density.
- Snacking – The act of consuming these said foods.
- Snack food is often considered high in calories, fat, salt, sugar, or a combination of any of these.
Having snacks during certain parts of your day can be the tide turner for a health journey boasting benefits such as satisfying hunger, supporting our training regimen, and helping us to meet nutrient needs.(1,3) Where things start to get sticky is when snacking turns into a distracted graze.
Is grazing the same as having a snack?
Not exactly. “Grazing” is when you are constantly consuming small meals throughout the day. Research suggests, eating more frequently may be associated with improved body composition, improved lab values, and more.(3)
Anecdotally, grazing may be helpful if you gorge at meal time due to extreme hunger or looking to fuel your body for optimal functionality or performance constantly.
However, I find many of my clients that are disturbed with the idea of having snacks or more frequent meals are typically partaking in this kind of behavior in a more mindless last-minute manner (i.e., while working, while scrolling, while moving about the city, or while rushing to a meeting).
This combo can be problematic due to the risk of ignoring fullness cues and choosing less nutrient-dense options, aka ‘snack foods.’(1,2,3) Once we discover the culprits, BOOM, they are released from their snacking bondage!
How to incorporate snacks mindfully: 4 easy steps
Now that we cleared the air on the fact vs. fiction, here are a few ways to incorporate snacks more mindfully to help propel your health journey
Step 1: Plan it out, meals included
Decide what meals and snacks you want to have and when. Planning may reduce the stress around decision-making and help make sure you get in all of the nutrients you need.
Step 2: Snack earlier rather than later
Some research suggests that those who snack earlier in the day tend to eat more fruits and veggies, where those who snack later may choose less nutrient-dense foods and consume the goods while distracted.(2)
Step 3: Pair food groups together for balance
Pairing food groups together such as carbs (think fruit) with fat or protein (think mixed nuts or an egg) can help reduce the occurrence of extreme blood sugar spikes that pick you up and drop you energy-wise. We break down these macros and best combos in our meal prep webinar, our mini meal prep masterclass, and our newsletters!
Step 4: Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals can leave you feeling drained and can send you on a snacking spree looking for anything you can get your hands on.(1) From experience, this is NOT where it’s at haha.
Snacks can help keep us on track with our health goals, but there is a thin line between intentionally incorporating them and relying on them to give you enough food to work through another meal.
Curious about how snacks can help you specifically? Are you a steady snacker? Learn about your eating style and how to make nutrition work for you in our 1-on-1 Wholesome Refine program. Not quite ready to dive into 1-on-1? We also cover this topic in our Rapid Refine E-course; check it out!