The generally accepted norm is to eat three square meals a day. My mum was a big advocate of this and did all she could to make sure I maintained a good habit of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although a good start, I actually don’t recommend being too strict or rigid with this. As animals, our body isn’t really designed to spend large periods of time without food. Three meals a day is more of a social application than a natural design. As cavemen, we ate when we could, we ate when we were hungry. Although not always practical in today’s rock ’em, sock ’em lifestyle, eating more often remains the best and most efficient dietary recommendation.
So in essence, what am I saying?
That’s right, snacking is actually good for you!
Everyone needs food, that’s a given, and to use the old car analogy, without fuelling up, you won’t get anywhere. Throughout the day, your body uses the food you’ve eaten and stored to produce energy. Go without food for too long and the metaphorical red light comes on and the lull in blood sugar level tells your body it needs refuelling. The resulting energy dip can result in a drop that will negatively affect energy levels and motivation. Enter snack time.
The trick is to choose a snack that will boost your blood-sugar level and keep it relatively constant for the rest of the afternoon. Eating processed sugar, found in sodas and candy, will give you a ‘sugar spike’ and a quick boost. But a too rapid rise in blood sugar will precipitate a ‘sugar low’ due to the large rush of insulin the body produces to deal with the sugar overload. This sugar ‘low’ results in fatigue and hunger, likely leading you to overeat later in the day. We therefore need to be more intelligent with the types of food we choose to snack with. I’m a big fan of nuts and raisins, they have good nutritional value (nuts are especially useful for a quick protein boost) and are surprisingly filling even in small amounts. Other options can include fruit, wholegrain cereals, hummus, vegetables, brown bread sandwiches, etc.
With the introduction of snacking comes the down side I’m afraid; portion control. Having incorporated twice daily snacks into your food plan, you no longer require the same sized lunch and dinner previously eaten. When thinking about portion size, a good guideline is to think about real life objects. For example, a portion of meat should be the size of a deck of cards and vegetable portions should be the size of your fist.
All this talk of food has suddenly got me very peckish, where did I put that handful of mixed nuts and raisins…?