Snacking is tricky, but healthy quick snacks are necessary to maintain your sugar levels and metabolism in equilibrium.
On one hand, you can’t be eating all day, and you need to wait three or four hours between meals. On the other, you don’t want to wait more than three to four hours or you’ll get too hungry and overeat, and your metabolism will go crazy assimilating all that food. Therefore, ideally you should eat a healthy quick snack between your main meals so you can maintain the no-more/no-less rule of three to four hours between meals.
Let’s see how can you accomplish it.
In previous posts I explained to you about the right combination of foods and food cravings, and you learned that you need to rest three to four hours between meals to let your metabolism do its work, but no more than that to avoid cravings that will lead you to overeat or to eat inappropriate foods.
Another good reason to follow the three-to-four-hour rule is the demonstrated link between low glucose levels and lack of self-control. If you maintain stable glucose levels during the day, you will be able to make better choices. Healthy quick snacks can help you maintain those blood glucose levels stable.
Your brain needs glucose to make the right decisions. If you haven’t eaten in three to four hours, your glucose levels are low. Therefore your self-control runs low too, resulting in poor food choices while your brain keeps asking for more glucose, which causes more glucose disequilibrium.
You have met the enemy, and you know it! After sugary drinks, inadequate snacking is your worst enemy because sugary and high carb snacks will destabilize your blood glucose equilibrium. These include not only cookies, muffins, and candy bars, but also chips, crackers, Frappuccinos and similar iced beverages, ice creams, and even healthy food that ate the wrong way can be detrimental to your weight management efforts, like grapes, carrots, or a fruit juice.
How Healthy Quick Snacks Affect Your Body
If you wait three to four hours between meals, your weight management team is fully relaxed, and it knows exactly what to do, which is good. But if that snack is a high sugar snack, it will be absorbed very quickly with the help of insulin. There won’t be any glucose left so the mechanisms to make you hungry will be activated to make you eat and recover your blood sugar levels. You will then want to eat another snack before the three-to-four-hour break is over, and you will enter in a cycle of constantly having high and lows in glucose levels, which will make you hungry, and you will end up eating most of the time.
However, if you not only wait three to four hours between meals, but also have healthy quick snacks between meals (low-sugar snack high in fiber and protein and with some good fat that you can keep handy and eat quickly when you need it), things will be different. Your weight management team, which will be rested and efficient after a three-to-four-hour break, will need more time to process this snack due to its composition (low in sugar and high in fiber and protein). Your body has no need to rush to lower the levels of sugar in the bloodstream, so the system can take the required time to do a proper job. Protein and fiber (vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain cereals like whole-wheat pasta, bulgur, quinoa, brown rice, and whole-grain bread) take longer to process. It is a much more difficult process than simple sugars. You will be perfectly able to wait three or four hours until your next meal, allowing your weight management team to recover peacefully.
In addition, enjoying healthy quick snacks three to four hours after a meal will help you avoid being extra hungry when you get to the next meal so you don’t overeat.
The time for a snack is often not a convenient one. It catches us in the office, attending meetings, on the train, in the car, dropping kids off at their activities, and a host of other inopportune times. You need to be extra cautious about snacking to avoid getting caught in one of those bad craving moments when you eat whatever you have close at hand. When you feel hungry someplace where you don’t have healthy quick snacks on hand, you’ll end up eating anything you can find. Those are usually extra calories you don’t even recognize. If you have already started your food diary (which you should), you can look back and check how many snacks you have had in a week that you haven’t even planned for.
Always carry easy and convenient snacks: an apple, some cheese with whole-wheat crackers, a bunch of nuts, plain Greek yogurt. Try to avoid sugary cereal bars, juices, or sugary yogurt, and eat those only if accompanied by whole grains, some protein and/or some good fat to reduce the insulin peak. You can learn more about healthy on the go snacks here, and in this video about healthy on the go snacks rich in protein.
Given our traditional organization of meals, nighttime is the most popular time for snacking. You have dinner early, and you still have a few hours before going to sleep. This is the time most of us finally relax after a long day at work and/or with the kids. You finally sit down. Relax. Get a book. Turn on the TV. Talk to your friend, your partner and … eat! Those are also times you associate with pleasure, and that makes you think you are deriving pleasure just from the food, not from the relaxing time or the pleasant company.
Again, it is the food and beverage industry, hand in hand with the marketing industry, that has developed a way to make us associate good times, enjoyment, pleasure, and happiness with a specific food or drink. Think about all those commercials that market chocolates, ice creams, ranch sauces, fried chicken, chips, and other snack foods.
You really need to break the link between eating and those other pleasurable activities. You don’t have to eat every time you are in one of those situations, and it is not food that is making you enjoy the moment—it is the activity!
To avoid nighttime snacking, eat your dinner a little bit later. Another strategy to avoid late snacking is to brush your teeth two hours before going to bed. You will have to choose between the impulse of eating a snack and the laziness of having to brush your teeth again!
If you are following my advice of having your largest meal at lunchtime (check my post about number and composition of meals), and you had a snack three-to-four hours after your lunch, you should be able to delay your dinner time. If there is no way for those changes to work for you, go ahead and choose something from the healthy quick snacks, but do not eat between two and three hours before bedtime, and avoid carbohydrates. Instead, go for the healthy on the go snacks.
Overcome Your Desire for Sugary Snacks
I know, you feel like eating that cookie—or that candy bar or sugary drink—in the middle of your horrible morning or afternoon saves your life … but it doesn’t! That euphoria you feel after your sugary snack is just the sugar peak! As soon as the insulin team removes it, you feel tired and irritable: You have mobilized a big team just for a sugary snack, and now you not only feel as miserable as before you ate the snack, but you are hungry again because the insulin has removed all sugar!
If inappropriate snacks are some of your worst enemies, try to avoid them. Don’t have them at home, don’t go to the candy jar at work, don’t carry any in your pockets. When you are facing the temptation, just think how bad they will make your body feel afterward, and think about your treat after lunch or dinner. If it is really time for a snack—three to four hours since your last meal—go for a healthy one. And remember, always have healthy quick snacks handy!
And if you have kids, check this post: 22 Healthy Snacks for Children
Over to You!
Was this information new to you or did you know this already?
Which are your favorite snacks?!