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Finding Balance: to snack or not to snack


Jennifer Russo

We hear conflicting messages constantly about snacking. Snack less, fast for 16 hours, snack more often, only snack in the afternoon, only eat fruit when you snack, instead of having a snack, have a shake or 2 bottles of water…the list goes on and on. How confusing it is getting this influx of instruction on what and when to eat or not eat. Often one of two things happen as a result – we try not to have any snacks or feel guilty about it when we do, or we just throw our hands in the air and have what we want.

The question isn’t really whether we can or can’t have a snack when we are feeling a little hungry. Of course you should, your body is telling you it needs a little something. It’s more about doing it in a smarter way. Understanding how our bodies function is critical to giving it what it needs at any given time.

WHEN: Everyone is different, but usually a person starts feeling a little twinge of hunger somewhere between 2-4 hours after they have had their most recent meal. So, if you’ve had breakfast at 8 AM, you will probably start feeling a little hungry (not anywhere near famished) around 11 AM. Depending on when you eat lunch, you could wait. If you really feel like you are low on energy and focus though, have something small, yet relatively filling. Post-dinner, nighttime snacking is often a problem for many people, but a lot of it is not because our body is hungry – it’s because we are bored. After being active most of the day, it’s time to take it easy and slow it down, and we don’t actually require food then.

WHAT: Typically, when we start feeling a little hungry during the day it is because we need a boost of energy or focus. What the body actually needs is protein and fiber, which will provide a more sustained energy until your next meal. We are going to think we want carbs, but that isn’t what our body is really asking for. Things like granola bars, nuts, apples, grapes, avocados, hummus and peppers or celery, yogurt with berries, a hard boiled egg…will give you a sense of fullness and satisfy the body of its craving, while providing you with that energy you need.

HOW: It is important to be mindful about your snacking. Don’t just grab any old thing and don’t just take the whole package of something to your seat. Take a portion that is just enough and put it in a small bowl. Don’t eat snacks as a routine. Just because you have a morning snack one day doesn’t mean you need one the next. Don’t have it if you don’t really feel hungry for it. It’s important to listen to your body.

So yes – snack…when you really need to and in a thoughtful way. Ohm Shanti.

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