To Snack or Not to Snack, That is the Question

To Snack or Not to Snack, That is the Question

Are you pro-snack or against snacking all together? The discussion of snacking has gone through many changes over the years. In some years, snacking has been considered a good idea to keep the calorie intake stable.

Other years, it was a point of hesitation because most people got enough good calories and nutrients at meals and experts did not feel that a between meal food was really necessary. Part of this concern was because there was the fear that too much food would be consumed with the snack or “grazing” period, so it was just best to keep it out of any plan. Research around the 1980’s found that people who ate three good meals had a good blood sugar range all day.

So, is it better to eat continuously or to have enough food at one meal that you don’t really need more until the next meal?

Snacks and Exercise

The popularity of fitness workouts and the need to eat more food on a regular basis before and after a daily workout has changed the discussion for good. Those of us who work out on a daily basis will, then, need to have three meals; as breakfast, lunch, and dinner (around 300 calories each). And, then usually a snack, that is a smaller meal of 200 calories, is between meals, and usually around two or three of these per day. Most people like to have a mid-morning, a mid-afternoon and sometimes, but not always, an evening snack.

Why Snack?

The purpose of a snack is to keep the body nutritionally balanced all day, with inclusion between those three mentioned meals. We are eating all day for sure; but, we are also providing nutrition and a good calorie base as we go. Think, “never too hungry and never too full,” as we go. The body will respond to this type of eating and most people using this pattern of eating often feel a good supply of energy throughout the day.

(Try this energy boosting smoothie recipe)

Other factors related to snacks and snacking:

  • Not everyone has time or the desire to eat a snack. Some will do so on only busy days because they feel they need more calories those days.
  • Other people consistently feel the need for a snack, and for most days, will plan to carry with them something that is ready to eat in their car or desk.
  • The body does like the regularity and consistency (snack or no snack). It is probably best to plan ahead when possible—make it a part of your routine meal planning so you don’t fall into the “cookie trap.”
  • Snacks are a good addition to a meal plan and most experts will agree that the earlier in the day that you have a snack (or a meal for that matter) helps to fuel an active body.
  • Snacks should almost always be on a smaller scope than a meal. Not really different nutritionally or even ingredients, but just smaller in size.
  • Good natural snacks of fruits, vegetables, fruit bars, sports drinks, lean protein, cheese, yogurt, and nuts of many varieties are some good choices.

Check out my previous blog post for a good listing of Healthy Snack choices in the range of 200 calories. This is simply a matter of personal taste and habit, so whatever YOU choose is best for YOU!

Rita Larsen Registered Dietitian at Elite Sports Clubs

Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor

Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.

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