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Savvy Snacking

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You have proudly heard the message loud and clear on the subject of eliminating junk food and eating a clean, healthy diet. Hopefully you are making good progress, cutting out the fast food and rethinking portion sizes. Another thing you might also be doing is trying to eliminate between-meal snacking. For many of us, giving up snacks is insanely difficult. And you know what? It’s not at all necessary. Chosen carefully and planned strategically, snacks are not just okay—they’re a great idea.

Many people get sluggish and cranky when they are hungry. Let’s not point fingers: you know who you are. To take the pressure off, we’ll consider a (possibly) fictitious test subject. Call him Stanley. Before heading to the office, Stanley eats a healthy breakfast and packs a sensible lunch. But come about 10:00 am, he gets hungry. His willpower declines and his common sense goes out the window. Seemingly without even knowing what he’s doing, Stanley finds himself in the break room scarfing down donuts. The jelly filling has fruit in it, right? Don’t judge. We’ve all been there. A few minutes later, bloated and unhappy, Stanley lumbers back to his desk, hundreds of calories in the hole.

snack 3However, if Stanley took a good look at this pattern of behavior, he could have predicted he would get hungry mid-morning. It happens every day. Instead of feeling like a failure and vowing to try and do better tomorrow, Stanley could short-circuit the whole sad, downward donut spiral simply by packing himself a tasty, healthy snack. When 10:00 am rolls around, he could enjoy a well-considered treat from home. His hunger would be sated and he’d feel both physically satisfied and emotionally happy with himself.

Snacks are good for anyone trying to control their eating, because they quell hunger and stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day. That makes you and me—and Stanley—better able to make smarter choices, food-related and otherwise. Snacks also allow you to spread out vitamins and minerals throughout the day so that you absorb them better.

The trick is to be smart about snacks. Don’t get cutesy and pretend that calories consumed in snacks don’t count—or, conversely, that you should feel twice as guilty about those calories. Simply account for them as part of your daily intake, and schedule them when you typically need a little pick-me-up. Obvious snack times are mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Also, many people feel the need for a boost before a workout. And don’t forget late-night snacks. There’s nothing wrong with snacking at night, as long as you keep in mind throughout your day that around, say, 8:00 you’re going to eat a little something. Maybe a hard-boiled egg, maybe a piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter. It’s fine: just keep it in mind when you’re eating dinner.

snackOnce our friend Stanley gets with the program and starts planning his snacks, he’ll start feeling how his body reacts to different healthy choices. For example, before a hard workout, a performance snack is in order. A piece of fruit would be perfect. It’s worth experimenting with your body, your metabolism, to see how different foods create different responses. You really can use snacks as a tool to get you through the day at your best. The trick is to pay attention, and to catch your hunger before it makes you do stupid things.

Snack strategizing in addition to meal planning might sound like a hard sell if you are organizing their eating for the first time in their lives. However, snacking can actually make things easier. It can be complicated to get all the necessary macronutrients squeezed into just three meals. It can be done, of course, but it often requires putting quite a variety of foods on the plate. When you factor in snacks—which should be extremely quick and easy to prepare—you’re potentially satisfying several important nutritional requirements outside of mealtime. That means meals can be a little smaller, a little simpler.


article adapted from Beachbody