How often should we eat?
Is it better to graze all day or eat three square meals?
There are many healthy ways to eat and the best timing of your meals depends on your habits and lifestyle.
One important technique in deciding whether or not you should snack, is to become aware of why you are eating.
As humans, we don’t only eat when we are hungry (stomach hunger), but also when we are bored (mouth hunger), anxious, sad, happy (heart hunger)…
Other good questions to ask before snacking are: Is my next meal going to be delayed? What types of food do I snack on? Does snacking prevent me from overeating later? And most importantly, once I start snacking, can I stop?
In diabetes, we often encourage snacking between meals to help people spread out their carbohydrate intake throughout the day, reducing the likelihood of having the high blood sugars that can result from large meals.
In weight loss, we also encourage some people to snack to prevent getting hungry.
While this sounds counterintuitive, the reality is that many people make poor food choices and overeat when they are really hungry. For some, preventing true hunger makes it is easier to stick to smaller portion sizes.
That being said, snacking can just as easily cause you to gain weight.
Snacking provides more occasions for eating food, and while we may intend to snack on vegetables, soon the chips and cookies start calling our name. These choices tend to be more caloric, addictive and hard to stop eating. Finally, with children, too much snacking can decrease their appetite for more nutritious foods at mealtimes.
So what are some good snack ideas?
Again, the answer to this question depends on why you are eating, but in general you want something that is satisfying to your hunger and nutritious.
To promote satiety and stable blood sugars, a snack that contains some fibre, some protein and a little fat is a good idea.
Examples include an apple with peanut butter, veggies with hummus or a couple whole grain crackers with cheese.
However, in our culture it is important to recognize that sometimes you just need a little chocolate and that is okay, too, just try to be moderate with your portion!
-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital. Any questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.