But how can this make sense, since snacking theoretically adds calories?
Snacking doesn’t serve to replace a meal. In fact, you should spread meals and snacks out by an hour or two, and snacks should only total a couple hundred calories or less.
Munching between meals can actually reduce your overall caloric intake by curbing overeating at your next meal. You can actually use this to your advantage. For example, if you know you are going out to a big dinner with friends, make sure you have a healthy snack before you leave so you’re less likely to order (and finish) a large entrée because you were so hungry.
Many experts recommend eating several smaller meals throughout the day instead of the usual three. By eating at regular intervals, your blood sugar levels (and therefore your energy levels) remain stable. Instead of experiencing that mid-afternoon crash, have a snack to keep you energized until dinnertime. Eating every few hours (especially if you chew on fruits and veggies) can also help add extra nutrition that you might be missing from other meals.
Snack, Don't Graze
Mindless eating is the downfall of many snackers. You may start with a handful of your favorite crackers, only to find yourself eating the entire box without even thinking twice. Obviously, this example isn’t representative of the healthy snacking that can help you reach your weight-loss goals.
To avoid grazing:
- Fill a small plate with your snack and leave the kitchen. Just walk away. When your plate is empty, snack time is over.
- Never bring the entire container with you in front of the television or computer. Enjoy your snack without distraction and you won’t be tempted to reach for more.
- If you stand around the snack table chatting at a party, you may find yourself reaching for food when the conversation lulls. This can often lead to an unintentional binge because you simply aren’t paying attention to what you are eating.
- Limit yourself to a single serving.
- Plan out your snacks just like you would your meals. Is one cookie worth the calorie cost, when you could eat a plate of fresh fruit instead?
As with the rest of your diet, moderation is crucial when snacking. Make sure you are tracking every snack along with the larger meals you eat during the day. If you don’t keep track, you might add excess calories and fat to your diet without realizing.
Instead of sabotaging your diet with unhealthy nibbles throughout the day, remember to eat nourishing foods whenever possible. If you know you have a weakness for junk food, do yourself a favor and don’t purchase these items the next time you are at the grocery store. That way, you won't be faced with ice cream, potato chips or other junk foods when hunger pangs hit.