There are two different definitions I would like to offer for snacking. The first is a small amount of food consumed at non-typical meal times, such as when you get hungry between breakfast and lunch, or between lunch and dinner. The other is repetitious munching, often with repeat visits to the fridge, cabinet, or your desk drawer. The latter is not necessarily a time when you are hungry.
Snacking between meals has its pluses and minuses. The plus is that it is more reasonable to eat for one sitting during a meal and not eat to cover more hours than your stomach can comfortably handle at once. In other words, if you have a well-balanced, nutritious, low-glycemic breakfast at 8:00 AM and you have a business lunch at 1:00 PM, it is reasonable that you might get hungry, say, around 11:00 AM. This is a sensible time to have a healthy, balanced, nourishing snack. (Be sure to brush your teeth after every snack, not just after every meal.)
There are three things, in particular, to be aware of about the other kind of snacking.
- Under no circumstances should you eat when you are under tremendous stress. If you can learn to alleviate stress (relax and calm yourself) using strategies other than food, your life, and your body will change for the better. If you are using food to mitigate stress, you will invariably make different and poorer choices than if you are more relaxed and centered. If stress hormones are flooding your body, loading up on simple carbs is even riskier because of the double-whammy inflammatory effect this can have on your body. This is one of the main culprits of degenerative disease.
- If you keep eating throughout the day, this will put wear and tear on your pancreas and levels of blood glucose. This is one of the risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. You must give your body a chance to normalize between intakes of food, to let your metabolism do its job, and to take a break between surges of insulin.
- If you nosh throughout the day, or during particular times, from boredom or habit, this is a great place to intervene on your own behalf. If you are bored, then you can go out of your way to discovering what makes you feel good, other than food. One of my clients turned to funny videos on his computer instead of donuts when the stress was hitting the fan. Another discovered that a bike ride around the neighborhood gave her more energy and a cheerier outlook compared to coming home from work and chowing down bread and cheese before dinner. She felt stressed after work and was willing to employ other ways to unwind.
Small meals are still in. Grazing (eating throughout the day) is potentially risky. Stuffing yourself and eating unconsciously has no place in a healthy and balanced lifestyle. You can make incredibly powerful changes, one healthy choice at a time.
With love and encouragement,
Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
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