Friday, June 28, 2013

To Snack or Not to Snack…

Many times my clients want to know which kind of meal plan will work best for them… Is it best to eat 3 meals, or to eat something every 2-3 hours? I don’t think there is one “right” answer because everyone’s physical needs and lifestyles are so different from one another. For some people, eating smaller meals throughout the day gives them more energy (especially if you have low blood sugar) while others may have difficulty stopping at one small snack and do better with 3 balanced meals.  

If your goal is to lose weight, then we need to focus on total calories throughout the day. If you have difficulty with portion size at meals because you are starving by the time you reach the table, then adding a healthy snack may help you lose weight. By adding a snack with protein and a complex carbohydrate (try to stick to 150 calories or less) you may be able to be satisfied with smaller portions at mealtimes. So instead of gobbling up a burger with fries and a soda (you just had to have it) you may opt for a salad with chicken, a cup of soup, or a small sandwich. The decision to stay on track is much easier when your hunger is not out of control!

If you add snacks throughout the day and do not decrease your portion size or calories in the meal, then you will end up taking in more calories, which would lead to weight gain.

The balance or breakdown of calories in the diet is not as important as the total number of calories. Many studies have found that weight loss is similar between high fat/low carbohydrate, high protein/low carbohydrate, and moderate carbohydrate diets. The “diet” that is most successful is the one you can stick to- and in many cases an overly restrictive diet is not a good long-term change. Instead, going for smaller lifestyle changes is the way to go.

 I am a huge proponent of listening to your bodies hunger/satiety signals or “mindful eating”. This approach would encourage you to eat when you feel physically hungry and to pass on food when you aren’t. So you plan a mid-morning snack, but your breakfast is still holding you over- save the snack for later in the day or for the following day.

The bottom line? Experiment with what works best for you! Keep a food journal with foods eaten and your hunger level (calories and nutrition info optional. This may help you decide which pattern you like to do better.

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