Snacking is a popular American pastime. Nearly all of us (94 percent) snack at least once a day, while half of all adults snack two or three times per day. It’s easy to see why: From cookies in the conference room to vending machines full of chips and crackers on every floor, our environment makes it easy to spend all day eating.
When done correctly, snacking can be a good thing. It can help you get to your next meal without being too hungry (thus preventing overeating) and, when balanced, can help keep your blood sugar and energy level stable throughout the day.
But most snack foods tend to be highly processed, low in nutrients and high in sugar. These types of snacks give you a temporary energy boost, but very quickly you’ll bottom out and feel fatigued and hungry again. And when you’re always grazing, you never give your body a chance to feel hungry or full. Plus, while those small bites and tastes may not seem like much, it can add up to a lot; sometimes, as much as a full meal. Sound familiar?
Follow these tips to snack responsibly:
1. Put it on a plate. Putting your snack on a plate will help you stick to one serving and paying attention to what you’re eating will leave you feeling more satisfied.
2. Take a seat. Treat your snack more like a meal and sit down to enjoy it. You’ll be more likely to feel satisfied and less likely to overeat.
3. Make it balanced. The best snack is one that provides carbohydrates, protein and fat. Carbs provide a source of energy, while fat and protein help to slow digestion, stabilize blood sugar levels and sustain that energy longer.
4. Slow down. It takes your stomach at least 20 minutes to signal to your brain that you’re full, so eating quickly means you’re more likely to overdo it on the snacks.
5. Eat regular meals. If you’re unable to go more than an hour or two before reaching for a snack, it’s time to look at your meals. While it’s normal for some people to feel hungry between meals, your main meals should keep you full and satisfied for at least two to three hours.
6. Be prepared. Keep nutritious foods on hand in case a meeting runs late or you’re out and about between meals so you don’t end up empty-handed when you feel hungry
7. Pay attention to your body. Before reaching for a snack, ask yourself what you’re really in the mood for. Are you physically hungry or are you trying to fix another emotion (like sadness, anxiety or stress)?