- How to avoid one of the biggest barriers between you and a healthy weight
- When can you snack?
- What can you snack on and still maintain a healthy weight?
Learn how to snack and lose weight.
To snack or not to snack, that is the question.
We’re flooded with diet information. All the rules around how to lose weight can be confusing. When I was trying to reach a healthy weight I always wondered “Can you snack?”
This post shares my approach to snacking. It helped me reach a healthy weight and maintain it for the last 18 years.
Can you snack?
A reader named Eve recently left a question at the end of my post about eating balanced meals.
In short she wanted to know: “Can you snack”?
Here’s what Eve wrote:
I love your thoughts and ideas. They are really clicking with me. Especially on not focusing on perfection and setting small goals and making good choices in the moment. Sometimes I feel like if I don’t have this grand diet plan I can’t succeed. Thank you for sharing in this blog.
I have a question for you about snacking.
In your article on grazing and this article it sounds like you do 3 square meals a day without snacking but I seem to remember reading somewhere else that you eat apples for snacks.
I want to begin creating a routine for my body that is healthy but the opinions on snacking out there are vastly different. I’ve always been a fan of snacking but then again who isn’t? 😉
Can you snack? The real question behind this question:
On Eve’s way to asking Can you snack? she touches on the real and bigger issue; one that posed a giant barrier between me and a healthy weight. What is this huge hurdle that affects so many of us? Eve calls it: The Grand Diet Plan.
I love this term. Grand Diet Plan even sounds unattainable. At the same time it captures the good intentions behind this unrealistic weight loss method. While “grand” is meant to describe an eating plan that’s long-term, making rules around what, where, when and how much you can eat just isn’t practical. The only thing certain in life is change. The Grand Diet Plan sets so many of us up to fail because we can’t eat according to a program that was made a week ago or even this morning. Life just isn’t like that.
The only thing that is constant is change.
– Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher
Opportunities come up out of the blue. Whether you decide to see a movie last minute with friends or get caught in a board meeting that runs late, you need to be flexible. It’s important to be able to make meal and snack decisions in any situation and feel good about them. And it’s important to eat when you’re hungry. The Grand Diet Plan doesn’t permit you to do that.
Can you snack? Answer:
Thanks for your question and feedback Eve.
I was also stuck on the Grand Diet Plan. In hindsight, writing down what I’d eat for a period of time and keeping it in my pocket was a security blanket. The belief that following this plan would mean I’d reach a healthy weight, made me feel good. It made me feel less anxious. However, I didn’t lose weight until I accepted that having a Grand Diet Plan is self-defeating.
I was so determined to prove I had the willpower to stick to a Grand Diet Plan that I couldn’t let this idea go until things got so bad it became more important for me to be healthy than thin. Ironically I lost weight when “What is the healthy choice?” became the filter for every decision I make.
Things don’t have to get bad before they get good. Information is knowledge and knowledge is power. Rather than focus on the Grand Diet Plan, start focusing on one meal at a time and making slightly healthier choices. Start at your next meal!
What have meals got to do with snacking?:
Snacking cannot be discussed in isolation. The energy and nutrients you require from a snack is directly related to the choices you make at breakfast, lunch and dinner. So before answering: Can you snack? We must first discuss meals.
Over the last 18 years that I’ve been a healthy weight I’ve eaten 3 balanced meals made mostly of whole foods. Then I’m getting lots of energy and a variety of nutrients 3 times a day from lasting sources; food found in it’s most natural state keeps you full longer than processed food. Think back to my blog post on Steel Cut Oats vs. Quick Oats.
When I’ve met my body’s needs I feel satisfied, rather than preoccupied by hunger. The result? I can focus on life between meals. However, if I’m hungry between meals, I will eat a roughly balanced snack made of whole foods. In other words:
I eat 3 meals a day and if I’m hungry between meals I’ll eat a snack.
As long as you’re eating balanced meals and balanced snacks made of whole foods, you know your body is sending hunger signals because you’re genuinely hungry; your body is truly low on energy and nutrients–not because you’re craving the addictive ingredients found in factory food.
Unnatural foods also lack the nutrients your body needs. That’s why you can feel hungry even though you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or pretzels.
These days I generally have a snack between lunch and dinner (I tend to eat dinner late). If you eat dinner early, you might feel more like a snack in the evening.
Figuring out when you’re genuinely hungry:
If you’re eating more balanced meals and snacks made mostly of whole foods and you’re getting used to listening to your body’s hunger signals, you can do “the apple test”. When I first started eating a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner made of whole foods I was never sure if I was actually hungry or just wanted to eat because I was in the habit of grazing on low-fat and zero calorie processed foods.
d) in the habit of always drinking or eating somethingNext time you find yourself thinking about snacking and you’re not sure if you’re actually hungry, do the apple test.
What’s the apple test? When you think you’re hungry but not sure, eat an apple and get back to what you were doing. If you still feel hungry, then make yourself a roughly balanced snack made mostly of whole foods. Here’s 3 examples:
A – yogurt, frozen blueberries and some natural granola on top (lately I’ve been eating ground flax seed instead of granola)
B – piece of toast with peanut butter, a banana or other fruit and a milky coffee
C – cookie, milky coffee and an orange
Stay away from processed foods! Cookies are fine here and there–especially if they’re from your grocery store’s bakery. Then they’re less processed than cookies that come in a box with an expiry date that’s months away. The fewer artificial ingredients in your food, the less it will confuse your body.
Most nights I have a few squares of chocolate after dinner if I feel like it. A treat here and there is no big deal if you’re mainly eating natural food. And eating sweet things occasionally, stops you from feeling deprived, craving a food and then eating too much of it.
When you take life one meal at a time and focus on making them balanced and made mostly of whole foods, you start to trust yourself and your decisions and you don’t need the Grand Diet Plan to feel good anymore. 🙂
Summary: Can you snack?
Can you snack? Yes. But make your goal to eat balanced proportions made of mostly natural food. Keep the Eatwell Guide in mind when building a snack.
Thanks so much for your question Eve! I was excited to hear from you. 🙂
Build healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy weight will follow.
Take life one meal at a time. Avoid processed foods. Aim to eat roughly balanced meals made mostly of whole foods and balanced snacks made mostly of whole foods when you’re hungry between meals. How do you make this change lasting? Especially if you’re used to eating chips, pop and other processed foods? Sign up for my weekly blog post (below) and you’ll receive one of the best strategies I learned. It will help you build healthy eating and exercise habits—or reach any goal.
The Worst In You by Andy Shauf
Can you snack? Yes. But stay away from processed foods. They bring out the worst in you.
I heard this song for the first time recently and loved it right away. It played on the radio just a few hours before news hit Canada and beyond, that Stuart McLean, author of all the Vinyl Cafe stories, had died. The lyrics and general tone of the song gave me that feeling of when you lose someone you love. You can’t find them anywhere but you feel them everywhere:
…I went back in the door
kicked off both of my shoes
looked around for your coat
and then went looking for you
thought that I heard your laughter stepping down the stairs…
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Sharing what I learned makes the 10 years I STRUGGLED worth it
What is your favourite balanced snack made of whole foods?
Loved this latest blog! I tend to feel hungry in the evening as during the day I am busy and keeps me from thinking of food. Although I don’t feel the need to snack that often, having planned my meals for the day in the morning, I can look forward to the next meal. I find a tablespoon of hummus with a stick of celery, slices of cucumber and perhaps a couple of slices of red pepper and baby tomatoes does the trick to satisfy until I am ready for a full meal. This actually makes for a good lunch if you increase the hummus to 2 tablespoons.
Everyone must figure out what works for them. My philosophy is that it’s important to lose weight the same way you want to keep it off. Building healthy habits, like eating balanced meals, has been so key for me to be able to maintain a healthy weight long term.
Carole, you mention that 2 tablespoons of hummus and some vegetables make a good lunch. I would add two slices of bread (preferably fresh to avoid preservatives) and either a homemade yogurt-based dip or a glass of milk. Including the 2 remaining food groups will make your meal more complete. It will give your body all the nutrients it needs to do all of its important jobs. Then you’ll feel satisfied longer. As well, I don’t measure food. I’d just give myself a big scoop of hummus, the same way you’d serve yourself at a restaurant, on holiday or at a friend’s house. Don’t worry about being so exact 🙂
Thanks so much for comment and feedback Carole. xo
As ever very interesting to read your blog. I am trying very hard to have less sugar but everything I buy seems packed with it. Even plain yoghurts, loose cereals etc. all have sugar in. I know that we need some sugar, but I am trying to reduce my intake. Any suggestions please?
Oh by the way, have you tried any of the recipes yet??? Mariannex
Thanks Marianne! My rule of thumb is to eat balanced meals made of whole foods. Foods found in their most natural state mean any sugar you eat is natural sugar, and if your meals are balanced you’ll eat the right amount. I also eat fruit between meals but don’t worry because the sugar is from a natural source.
To quote the important movie: FED UP
“There are 600,000 food items in America. 80% of them have added sugar.”
Keep it simple and stay away from processed foods as much as you can. And don’t get too hung up about sugar found in minimally processed foods like natural yogurt.
The recipes are awesome… thinking of doing one in an upcoming blog post! THANK YOU 🙂