Weight loss is a topic of serious debate these days, with opinions on every aspect of the topic all over the map. Should you go paleo or Mediterranean? What’s up with Keto? Are high-intensity workouts better than bodyweight programs? Is yoga really exercise? Big breakfast or no breakfast? Are carbs bad? Are fats good? To make matters more confusing, the answer to most of these questions is “It depends.”
The debate over whether snacking is a good weight loss strategy is no different. Here are a few things to take into consideration when deciding if snacks should play a part in your weight management plan.
Why Are You Snacking?
Many prominent diets today are avid advocates for frequent snacking as a way to increase metabolism and control blood sugar. Other premier programs like the Thrive Experience recommend removing habitual snacking altogether. The difference in opinion may be rooted in the reasons behind your snacking.
If you have developed the habit of mindless eating or your weight issues are connected to emotional eating, a key to your weight loss may be taking control of your eating habits. One way to do this is to engage in a program with a very strict schedule, and that usually includes cutting out snacks. Placing yourself on a strict regimen can help you to move your eating into a more cognitive realm where you are making conscious choices that help you gain more self-control.
On the other hand, if you are dealing with blood sugar issues, feelings of sharp deprivation, or intense hunger that endangers your progress, a healthy snack may be essential to your success.
What Are You Snacking On?
Not all snacks are created equal. A diet that gives you permission to partake of several snacks a day is not an invitation to dive headfirst into a bag of chips every few hours. That kind of unhealthy snacking is definitely not going to help you with weight loss. When it comes to diets and snacks, the unspoken rule is that the snacks need to be healthy and must be a planned part of your diet so that they don’t skyrocket your calorie intake.
Protein should always be a part of a healthy snack, whereas simple carbs are usually not a good choice. If you are having difficulty with balancing your blood sugar, it can also be helpful to include some healthy fats such as avocado or olive oil. Of course, including veggies of all kinds and some lower-sugar fruits like blueberries is always a good choice.
When Are You Snacking?
The first rule of snacks on a diet is that you should only do it if you need to. If you are snacking four times a day simply because your diet says you can, that isn’t optimal. If you aren’t hungry, feel free to skip a scheduled snack.
Most diets that advise eating between meals offer the opportunity for mid-morning, late afternoon, and evening snacks. Many people find that if they have a good breakfast, they don’t really need something before lunch. The gap between lunch and dinner tends to be lengthy for most people, so the late afternoon snack can be a diet saver. The snack between dinner and bedtime is questionable. Certainly, if you find you need it and your diet allows for it, then you should feel free. However, unless you are a very young man or an athlete, you’ll want to make this snack very low in calories as you won’t have the opportunity to use the energy it supplies before you go to sleep.
In general, anytime you go more than four hours without a meal, your blood sugar may begin to dip. If you let it get too low, the resulting lack of energy and hunger can lead to poor choices.
Be Honest With Yourself
When it comes to snacking and weight loss, you’ll need to be honest with yourself about why you need to snack, make great choices of what you will eat, and plan your snack times based on your individual needs. There is no right or wrong choice here, only what is right for you.