TO SNACK OR NOT TO, THAT IS THE QUESTION
We all have those moments; yes, you know those episodes of sudden bursts of hunger that strikes in between meals. Then again we remember that we have some pending weight loss goals, and therein lies the predicament: to dig into the cookie jar pick a few and munch away, reach for the apple, have a glass of juice or milk, a mug of butternut soup or……………… the possibilities are many.
WHAT’S A SNACK?
A snack is a small meal or drink taken in between meals and generally tends to be about 200 calories. If your children are like mine, they only understand snacks as biscuits, cupcakes, candy, ice-cream, crisps, corn puffs, etc. ………not really in the healthy category of foods! (we have to keep steering our children in the right direction without depriving them completely).
On a light note: If you serve rice, spaghetti or any other food before “ugali” (African cake), to my relatives from the western part of Kenya, this will be categorized as a snack, quantity or timing not withstanding………
To the bodybuilder, a snack could be a glass of protein shake blended with milk, berries, banana or nuts.
THE HABIT OF SNACKING
Snacking could be planned or impulsive. For instance, you are attending a conference hosted at a five-star hotel; no sooner have you had breakfast whose menu was from here to Timbuktu (and one that you FULLY exploited), than it is time for 10 o’clock tea with accompaniments, then lunch, and again 4 o’clock tea with accompaniments as well, and you indulge in ALL these. Considering that you are simply seated most of the time, need you get surprised when the waistline starts or continues to expand? This then would be a case of impulsive snacking; basically, eating out of convenience not necessarily hunger triggered.
Planned snacking is deliberate and mostly geared towards meeting certain caloric/nutrient targets especially for weight gain.
RE-LOOK AT YOUR GOALS
Healthy snacking is goal-oriented (whether to lose, maintain or gain weight) and it is aligned to one’s energy requirements. Some people can only handle a small volume of food at a go and therefore need to throw in extra meals/snacks in order to attain adequate nutrition.
SNACKING AND WEIGHT
There are ardent believers that frequent snacking, up to 5-7 meals a day does boost metabolism, this is not necessarily true or false, because studies have had conflicting results…… weight gain or loss in response to snacking varies amongst people.
It has been demonstrated that if total calories over 24 hours are the same, it does not matter whether the meals are 2 or 7, the net effect on weight is the same. This is so because, after the heavy meal, the extra calories may be stored as glycogen+/- fat, but this will be utilized during the prolonged break in between the 2 meals, whereas in the 7 frequent but small meals, the body is sort of flooded with ready energy and therefore does not require to burn the already stored glycogen/fat to function.
A study done on 38 obese inpatients showed no evidence that meal frequency or protein concentration affect the rate of fat loss (although a diet with a high-protein concentration tends to preserve muscle).
Take home message: choose a regimen that works for you but be sure not to eat or drink more calories than your body needs.
Generally speaking, a protein-rich snack or fruits are a good option, but limiting the fruit portions is prudent in patients with diabetes mellitus lest the blood sugar skyrockets, and of course for those on a weight loss journey.
Natural yoghurt, nuts (beware they are nutritious but dense in calories as well……. good choice for weight gain), eggs, carrots and other vegetable bites etc. make good choices.
In order to avoid indulging in junk snacks (highly processed, dense in calories without much nutrients), just avoid keeping them in your house; you can’t consume what’s not available.
- The common mistake of not counting in the snack calories within your overall consumption, lest you tip the weighing scale or simply get an expanding waistline.
- Night time and mindless snacking especially when focused on a TV or other screen, has been associated with unnecessary weight gain.
- Small portion with very high calories; e.g. 2 scoops only of chocolate ice cream contains 287 calories compared to a medium sized banana that contains about 110 calories inclusive of vitamins, potassium, energy and fiber too.
- Impulsive or emotional snacking. Keep food temptations away and seek emotional support accordingly.
The DOCTOR FITNESS mantra
Eat a wide variety of foods in right portions/proportions and limit the intake of junk.
Secondly, move your body; walk, dance, go hiking, swimming or cycling, join an aerobics class or do home based workouts, lift some weights………. whatever it is that you fancy, get up and move some muscle on a regular basis.