Snacking has become quite the phenomenon in today’s society, and even replaces meals much of the time. Because so many of our social activities involve food, we tend to be eating more than we are not eating. But is this healthy?
Well, there is no clear-cut answer for everyone as we are all unique individuals and metabolize fuel somewhat differently. Some folks prefer a couple larger meals per day. Others follow the standard 3-meal, 2-snack per day game plan. Yet another group consists of grazers, who snack all day. Which way is best?
Just like most questions in life, there are 2 sides to the story so let’s take a look at both the advantages and disadvantages to snacking!
1) Satiety Throughout The Day
Folks who don't snack may approach mealtimes like a free-for-all. It's been hours and hours since they've eaten and they lose willpower, possibly making bad choices due to hunger. Healthy snacking helps to control the mad desire buy that giant bag of gas station Cheetos and shovel them in at light speed as you head home from work.
2) Better Blood Sugar Control
If meals are consumed every 6 hours or so, blood sugar is destined to spike when food is consumed, particularly if the meal is high carbohydrate. Snacking can help to better regulate blood sugar, especially when metabolically efficient snacks are consumed (fiber + protein + fat).
3) Smaller Meals
Let's face it; giant meals aren't good for anyone. Eating smaller, controlled meals leads to more efficient digestion and metabolism. When snacks are omitted from the day, meals tend to be larger which can translate to feeling like you need to be rolled away from the table or out of the restaurant.
1) Poor Snack Choices
If your go-to snacks are processed, packaged items- you are better off sticking with meals only. Most snacks are high carbohydrate, low nutritional value. Selecting healthier snack options is best- hummus and raw veggies, plain Greek yogurt and seeds, nuts and fruit, or a Lara Bar are great examples.
2) Overconsumption of Calories
If your goal is to maintain weight and your caloric need per day is 1,700 calories for example; this requirement could be easily exceeded with unnecessary snacks. Many snack foods do tend to be high calorie (even healthy ones like nuts), so keep a close eye on this.
3) Snacking = Constant Grazing
This is where you need to be honest with yourself about your eating habits. If you start munching and are not able to stop, incorporating snacks into your daily regimen is probably not a good thing. Conversely, if you feel energy dips in the day and you are able to avoid this by having small, controlled snacks 1-3 times a day... Snack on!
So, is snacking helpful or hurtful? The answer is: it varies from person to person. Get in touch with your eating habits and determine whether snacking starts a chain reaction of overeating, or whether you are able to incorporate these small fuel sessions in effectively. There lies your answer. For athletes who are burning a considerable amount of calories per day, snacks can help to bridge the gap between meals and keep eating on track. Seek the help of a sports dietitian for further guidance.