Are You a Smart Snacker?

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A study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 97% of women snack between meals. The study also found that while so many women are snacking, many of these women are less likely to be overweight if they’re snacking on the right foods and for the right reasons.

Snacking can be a great way to stay fueled and focused throughout the day. It can be an effective strategy to prevent mood and energy dips, and prevent becoming overly hungry… which can also prevent overeating later on. It can be a great way to keep your blood sugar level stable and keep you on track with a healthy weight loss and lifestyle plan.

While snacking can be a great option for many women, it can be a source of needless extra calories and weight gain for others. How can you become a “smart snacker?” It starts by identifying why you’re snacking along with taking a look at what types of foods you’re snacking on.

First, let’s take a look at why you’re snacking. To find out, ask yourself what’s motivating the snack? Is it driven by hunger – a physiological need to eat when your body is telling you that you need food? If so, the food is necessary and is being used to keep you fueled and nourished. Here’s where snacking is a great option and snacking on food choices rich in nutrients, fiber, quality protein, vitamins and minerals can contribute to a healthy body, mind and lifestyle.

If the snack is triggered by something else, you need to know that too because it’s likely that these snack calories will go straight to your belly, hips and thighs. For example, are you snacking when you’re stressed, tired or when triggered by something you see, think or feel? Are you snacking because the current food choices you’re making aren’t keeping you full or satisfied? Are you eating a high sugar diet that’s causing a rise and crash of energy, encouraging ongoing snacking to pick you up after each energy crash?

Once you learn your answers, it’s time to create a snack plan for success.

So let’s say you find you’re eating for energy. What’s at the root of the problem? It could be a lack of quality, restorative sleep. Can you go to sleep earlier, wind down sooner or create a more inviting sleep environment? Could you catch a quick nap during the day, spend less time at night watching TV or on the computer to allow more time for sleep?

Next, it could be that the choices you’re making aren’t giving you energy. Whole, real, “live,” nutrient dense foods like fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts, for example, pack within them lots of nutrients compared with highly processed, high sugar, “dead,” empty calorie snack choices. For example: compare a brightly red bell pepper, planted in rich, healthy soil, grown with water and sunshine, picked right from the earth and shipped to your local farmer’s market vs. an artificially colored and flavored chip, constructed in a factory and made with ingredients that read like a lab experiment! One fuels and supports your energy and health; the other is virtually unrecognizable to your body offering nothing but temporary energy while slowly chipping away at your health, confidence and waistline.

Now consider if you’re snacking because of stress. If so, snacking may be your subconscious attempt to soothe, calm, numb and relax. If you are eating to combat stress, again, how about getting to the root of the problem by identifying what’s causing your stress? Once you find out, what can you do to manage it more effectively? An immediate solution may be to substitute high sugar, nutrient-void snack choices for foods that satisfy that need to crunch without an excess of calories. Once that switch is made, what’s a more effective way to combat your stress? Do you need to take on less, journal, meditate, go for a long run/walk, or do an intense workout to burn off some steam? Do you need more down-time with friends, family or time for yourself?

Snacking is smart when it’s used for the right reasons and when choosing the right foods. Are YOU a smart snacker? I’d love to know, comment and share!

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  • Paula Gallagher
    Paula Gallagher
    Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
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June 2012
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