The Power of Snacks


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To snack or not to snack?

Let's talk about what's best ....

The holidays are around the corner, celebrations are in full swing and your eating habits may be all over the place.

While it’s important to enjoy the season, it’s equally important to find balance and not derail the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard to establish this year. Instead of drastic shifts in eating let’s discuss a healthy, sustainable approach to consumption – one that can get you through parties and events every day of the year.  

Rather than restricting or ‘saving your calories’ for a large celebratory meal or a few holiday cocktails, take control of your health by eating throughout the day.  

Eating throughout the day is critical, and it begins within an hour of waking. Then every 3-4 hours. That’s where snacks come in. Depending on the number of hours you’re awake, an ideal day may include breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner. If your days are long, a post-dinner snack may be necessary.

Read on to see how snacks can help you reach your health goals

  1. Snacks activate your metabolism [think of your body as a gas tank – you can’t drive a Porsche on empty]

  2. Snacking will help you control your ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin → regulate your hunger cues to regulate your intake. Studies show …
    - Ghrelin triggers when, what, how and why you eat
    - It increases appetite, decreases metabolism and decreases fat burning
    - High ghrelin levels lead to eating without control
    - Skipping or delaying meals, low-calorie meals, carbohydrate restriction, weight loss, exercise and lack of sleep increase ghrelin production

  3. Snacks set you up for success [holiday parties: you often can’t control what’s being served this time of the year but you can control your hunger going into it]

  4. They sustain your energy and increase your productivity

  5. Snacks can boost your fruit and vegetable intake [in turn you’ll increase your fiber, vitamin and mineral intake]

As always, go for whole foods over processed items. They’re lower in refined grains and added sugars. You want a snack that sustains you, not one that leaves you feeling high to then crash.

It's also important to include a variety of macronutrients each time you eat. What does that mean? Have carbohydrates and protein or carbohydrates, protein and fat. Carbohydrates will quickly reduce your hunger and protein will keep you feeling full. They pair very nicely together, too.

Some great snack combinations are below. Choose your snacks well.

– 2 dates and 1/2 Tbsp nut butter
– 1 hard boiled egg and a small piece of fruit [apple, banana, pear, persimmon]
– 1 rice cake, 1/2 Tbsp nut butter and a drizzle of honey
– 1/2 Tbsp nut butter and a small piece of fruit
– 4 walnut halves and 2 Tbsp dried fruit
– 1/4 cup cashews and 3-4 dried apricots
– 1 cup plain Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup mixed berries
– 1/4 cup hummus and raw vegetables [carrots, cucumber, snap peas, bell pepper]
– 2/3 cup mixed berries and 1-2 squares dark chocolate [70% or more]

Note: portions are built for 1,600 calorie plans and cover one of two daily snacks

This post isn’t to recommend mindless snacking at your desk or in front of your TV. It’s also not meant to endorse grazing throughout the day. Treat these snacks as any other meal or experience with food – give them as much attention as you can.


 
 

References

Bachman, J. L., Phelan, S., Wing, R. R, and Raynor, H. A. (2011). Eating frequency is higher in weight loss maintainers and normal weight individuals as compared to overweight individuals. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 111 (11), 1730-1734.

Hansen, T., Dall, R., Hosoda, H., Kojima, M., Kangawa, K., Christiansen, J., and Jorgensen, J. (2002). Weight loss increases circulating levels of ghrelin in human obesity. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, 56 (2), 203-206.

Klok, M. D., Jakobsdottir, S, and Drent M. L. (2006). The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obesity Reviews, 8 (1), 21-34.

Wren, A. M., Seal, L. J., Cohen, M. A., Brynes, A. E., Frost, G. S., Murphy, K. G., Dhillo, W. S., Ghatei, M. A., Bloom, S. R. (2001). Ghrelin Enhances Appetite and Increases Food Intake In Humans. Imperial College School of Medicine. Retrieved from https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/bitstream/10044/1/287/1/WREN-JCEM-2001.pdf