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Cracking the Snacking Code: A Guide to Smart and Healthy Nibbling Habits

Dr. Arnan Sisson, PT /January 15, 2024

Whether it’s because we’re crazy busy, or because snacking helps with portion and craving control, many people find themselves snacking throughout the day – rather than eating “three square meals.”

This raises the question, is this frequent snacking helpful for weight maintenance or not?

The answer is, it depends.

Done right, ‘smart snacking’ can help curb your appetite and provide nutrients your body needs. Done wrong, snacking can cause weight gain because you end up eating more calories than your body needs.

If you have a hard time limiting yourself to small portions, eating more times per day equals more chances to overeat or binge. If eating more often means eating too much, then you shouldn’t do it.

If you feel slightly hungry, and it’s been more than three hours since you last ate, a small snack may be a good choice. If you’re not sure if you’re hungry, wait 20 minutes and see if you still feel the need to eat.

​If you only want to snack on junk foods—that is, an apple or other healthy snack just won’t do—you’re probably experiencing a craving, not true hunger, and snacking could do more harm than good.

Snacking Do and Don’ts

If you decide eating small meals and snacks suits your needs, here are a few dos and don’ts:

  • Do choose nutritious snacks—low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, carrot sticks with hummus, an apple with a piece of cheese, and a serving of nuts. Snacks containing protein keep you feeling satisfied longer than snacks primarily consisting of carbohydrates.
  • Don’t snack mindlessly, while watching TV, surfing the Internet, or driving. It’s far too easy to mindlessly munch through more than you need if you’re not paying full attention.
  • Do pay attention to hunger signals. Eat a portion-controlled, nutritious snack before you become so hungry you lose control of your eating.
  • Don’t eat too close to bedtime. Have your last meal or snack at least two to three hours before bed for your best night’s sleep.
  • Do snack for the right reasons—because you’re hungry and as part of your healthy eating plan.
  • Don’t use snacking as an excuse to overeat sweet or salty foods.
  • Do make your meals smaller if you decide to snack. Even if your snacks are packed with nutrients, if you eat more calories than your body needs, you’ll still gain weight.
  • Don’t eat irregularly and skip meals. Eating erratically can signal your body that food is scarce and it should store calories, also possibly causing weight gain.

As you can see, ‘smart snacking’, if done right, can be a good thing!

If you are paying attention to your body’s signals, examining if / why you are hungry, adjusting your larger meals accordingly, and selecting nutritious options, snacking could help you maintain your hard-earned weight loss successes. 

Feel like you've tried everything and are still struggling with your diet? Speak to our nutritionist for a free phone consultation and see if our services are right for you!