I saved an issue of “Real Simple,” magazine for many years, because of the wonderful snack suggestions and the information about why snacking is beneficial. The advice is tried and true- and is still available on the Real Simple website even today. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from that issue.
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Why It Makes Sense To Snack:
It keeps your metabolism humming:
"Research suggests that, like a charge for a battery, eating about three meals a day with two or three snacks in between can make your metabolism more efficient," says Stephen Gullo, a psychologist and a weight-control specialist in New York City. This, in turn, aids in weight maintenance and even weight loss. "Snacking can help your body burn a few calories," he says. Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian in New York City and the author of The Snack Factor Diet suggests thinking of your metabolism as a fire in your belly that you turn on every morning. "A little food is the fuel you throw into the fire to keep it burning strong," she says. "For some people, that means stoking it every 2½ hours; for others, it’s every 3½ hours." The point is never to let your energy wane or to go without a bite for so long that you get very hungry.
It helps you eat less at mealtimes:
"You’re much better off having two snacks between the hours of two and seven, then having a light dinner," says Sara Ryba, a registered dietitian in Scarsdale, New York. "If you wait until you’re so ravenous that you would eat the kitchen table, you’ll wind up eating way more calories when you do finally sit down for supper." Experts suggest choosing a snack that has roughly 100 to 200 calories (a meal should start at about 300). Make sure it fills you up (to stop you from decimating the bread basket when dinnertime arrives) with a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. "Together they stabilize blood sugar levels and keep you feeling satisfied," Ryba says. "If a snack is high in refined carbs or sugar, your blood sugar will jump, then crash, leaving you feeling tired and even more hungry."
Another way to ensure that a snack tides you over- make it feel like a small meal, with multiple components. Experts suggest that if a dieter is given a 100-calorie snack that mimics a meal, such as shrimp cocktail or soup and a bran cracker, versus an apple, she is more likely to feel much more satisfied and less hungry.
It ensures you get all your vitamins:
"Snacking is a great way to fit in all the nutrients that your body requires each day," says Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian in Atlanta and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Case in point: The average American woman doesn’t get the recommended 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, so Moore suggests seeking out snacks rich in the mineral―for example, low-fat yogurt or almonds, which also pack in more protein and fiber. Ellie Krieger, host of the Food Network’s Healthy Appetite and author of the cookbook So Easy, recommends including a fruit or a vegetable in every meal and snack to get the nutrients you need. She notes that a crunchy apple or a juicy orange can boost your satisfaction for fewer calories while also adding important antioxidants to your diet.
Just make sure to check the ingredients of what you're snacking on- some yogurts are high in sugar, and other so-called healthy snacks may have hidden ingredients.
It puts you in a good mood:
"When blood sugar levels get too low, you can become irritable and have trouble concentrating," says Gullo. "So for mood control and cognitive and metabolic efficiency, healthy snacking between meals helps." Choose any snack you like (choking down celery sticks doesn’t do anything for your mood if you hate them), as long as it follows the experts’ basic guidelines.
It foils even the strongest cravings:
"If you are driving home from work and are hungry, every fast-food restaurant looks good," says Moore. "But if you play defense and have a snack before you leave, then you can hold out for dinner" without hitting the drive-through. And there’s a healthy snack to kill every craving. If you lust for crunchy, salty treats, try three-quarters of a cup of shelled edamame, which has about six grams of fiber, 12 grams of protein, and only 150 calories. Live for desserts? Gullo tops a 90-calorie waffle with fat-free whipped topping and strawberries for a low-calorie treat. So when cravings attack, have a plan for giving in intelligently. "It’s all about knowing the foods that satisfy you," says Gullo, so you don’t feel deprived and end up eating more than you need or even want. "Strategy is better than willpower," he says.
Here are more suggestions on how to snack smart from Real Simple:
Snack on This? Experts Weigh in On …
Genius solution for folks on the go or candy bars in health-food clothing? According to experts, the answer is both. “It depends on the bar,” says Krieger. “A lot are designed to be meal replacements, so they are 300 calories or more. If you eat them as a snack, you’ll get more calories than you need.” Look for a bar that has 150 to 200 calories, at least four grams of protein, and four or more grams of fiber.
Drinks and Smoothies
“Liquids offer a low-calorie way of consuming a lot of volume, and more volume fills you up,” says Ryba. Experts suggest a skim decaf latte or a skim cappuccino (calcium sources that fulfill a craving for warmth), a 60- to 100-calorie soup (Gullo loves the appetite-killing powers of tomato soup), or a homemade smoothie with ice, skim milk or plain yogurt, and a cup of berries (store-bought smoothies tend to be high in calories and sugar). Or have a solid snack with some antioxidant-rich green tea.
100-Calorie Snack Packs
“Remember how chip bags used to say ‘20 percent more free’?” says Gullo. “The food industry discovered that people will pay even more to be saved from themselves.” In other words, they are willing to fork over extra money for snacks that keep the calories in check; that’s why you see 100-calorie bags of everything from crackers to cookies to chocolate. These are controlled portions, true, but good things don’t always come in small packages. “You want nutrient-dense calories, plus vitamins and minerals, and the protein and healthy fats that promote satiety,” says Glassman. “One hundred calories of junk is better than 500 calories of junk, but often those 100 calories lead you to eat more, because you’re not satisfied with them.”
Hopefully these tips provide further insight to why snacking is essential to weigh loss, and why it’s something I strongly recommend in the G.R.A.D.E. diet.
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