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Is Snacking Between Meals Right for You?

February 21, 2013 by Joanna Drake, Registered Dietitian

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“Do I need to eat snacks?”

Although this is a common question, there isn’t one answer.

The need to snack depends on two things: the person and the snack.

The person: Do I need the extra food? Do I need to eat smaller amounts more often?Snacking can help us meet our calorie and nutrient needs when we can’t do this at mealtimes. Simply, this means snacking because we’re hungry. If satisfying hunger isn’t our purpose, we are likely eating out of boredom, habit, just because food is available or for one of the many other reasons people eat when they don’t need the fuel from food.

Snacks may be beneficial if:

  • you have a small appetite,
  • you’re very active or have increased calorie needs for any other reason, including pregnancy, or
  • you have a health condition, such as diabetes, when it may be recommended to eat smaller amounts of food more often.

If you’re not one of these people, snacking can result in undesirable weight gain if you don’t decrease the size of your meals to adjust for the extra food at snack time.

The snack: What am I going to eat?

Many people think of “snack foods” as chips, crackers, cookies, etc. These foods can have lots of calories but very little nutrition; they tend to be high in sodium and sugar too. Also, people often choose snacks from the grain products food group. Even though they may be healthy choices, most people eat enough servings of grains at meals so don’t need more as snacks.

Fruits and vegetables, yogurt, nuts and seeds are snack foods that, in addition to calories, provide a rich source of vitamins and minerals that people have more difficulty meeting. If you are hungry, they can help meet your nutrition needs.

Some snack ideas include:

  • A homemade smoothie (made with fruit, yogurt and milk or soy beverage)
  • Vegetable sticks with hummus or black bean dip
  • Single serving tuna on celery, peanut or nut butter on apple 
  • Homemade trail mix (made with dried fruit, nuts and seeds and whole grain cereal)

In general, I’m not someone who snacks because I meet my nutrition needs at meals. If I’m hungry, I grab a piece of fruit. Otherwise, when I hit my 4pm slump and I need something to perk me up, I usually make myself a giant cup of tea – peppermint, Earl Grey Rooibos, or something with cinnamon.

Do you snack? What are your favorite foods to snack on?


Related Posts:
Movie Munchies
Avoiding the Vending Machine Slump
Smooth Operator

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