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Is Snacking Good or Bad?

HCPC Registered Dietitian Mei Wan covers all your frequently asked questions about snacking. 

Take home message... 

 

Snacking, if healthy, can be included as part of a balanced diet. You just need to consider: What are your nutrition goals? Am I full after my meals? Is my snack nutritious?  

To Snack Or Not To Snack? 

 

Some of us have been taught to have 3 meals a day and told to avoid all snacks, whereas others have learned to have 3 meals plus 2 snacks a day.

 

So, the question is, to snack or not to snack? Do I satisfy a ‘snack attack’ or do I wait for the next meal (which might not be until breakfast – yikes!).

Why Do We Snack? 

 

Snacking is determined by various factors: 

 

  • How hungry you feel 
  • Snacking out of boredom 
  • The context, for example, at work, at home or with friends 
  • Time of day 
  • Environment 
  • Feeling tempted 
  • Beliefs about snacking itself 
  • Snacking for energy 

Did you know that people are more likely to snack when there is (visibly) tempting food – even when they’re full! 

Mindful Snacking 

 

Research shows that snacking supports your nutrition goals if they are carefully planned ahead and are based on whole foods. In contrast, if you are choosing snacks that are high in (trans-/ saturated) fat, refined sugars and salt, then these would likely contribute towards weight gain, mood swings and energy fluctuations. 

 

Why not use the following questions to get more curious about your snacking habits... 

 

  • How long ago did I have my main meal? 
  • How much water have I had? Am I thirsty? 
  • Am I feeling a physical sensation in my tummy that is urging me to eat? 
  • Am I bored/ tired/ stressed? 

Dietitian Approved Snacks   

 

Depending on your medical condition(s), aim for a snack that is high in protein and fibre – this combination will keep you fuller for longer. Try to have no more than 1 – 2 snacks a day as they provide energy and help you from becoming too hungry for your next meal.  

 

Here are some tasty and nutritious ideas... 

 

  • Hummus and vegetable sticks 
  • Greek yoghurt with fresh or frozen berries 
  • Hard boiled eggs 
  • Edamame beans 
  • Olives and feta cheese 
  • Popcorn 
  • Roasted chickpeas 

Some Final Thoughts     

 

In summary, when you next fancy a snack, ask yourself if you’re actually hungry and how it will make you feel afterwards. Always aim for a whole food snack rather than an ultra-processed snack/junk food – the latter is not only less nutritious but will leave you feeling sluggish. Also, choosing something healthier will help you feel more satiated and it’s more likely to support your nutrition goals. 

 

Mei Wan BSc (Hons), RD, MBDA

HCPC Registered Dietitian & Nutritionist

IG: @dietitian.mei

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