Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus.See all posts »
To Snack or Not To Snack
After searching for the answer to this question for many clients who are striving to control cravings and get sustained energy, I have come to the overwhelming conclusion that eating light and eating often is the best policy. How often is often and how light is light? That varies from person to person. But here are some tips to help you figure it out for yourself.
Eating light is difficult to do in our super-sized environment. I follow my fullness cues to determine when to stop. Again, this is difficult to determine because we are so accustomed to cleaning our plates and eating everything put in front of us. My best advice is to eat slowly so the signal can get to the brain that you are getting satisfied. The other advice I have is to stop when you are satisfied, not when you are full. Keep telling yourself that you only need to eat enough food to get through the next 3 or at the most 4 hours. Don’t try to eat as much food as possible to get you through 7-8 hours. That is too much food for your body to process at one time. That brings me to my next point….
In order to prevent cravings and get sustained energy, you need to keep your glucose, or blood sugar, in the proper range. When you go too long without eating, it signals to your brain that you are starving and your body stores fat because it doesn’t know how long you are going to starve it or often you are going to do that to it. Your brain then tells your taste buds that you want sugar because it is instant energy. Your brain may also be craving fat because it is very dense in energy (calories). If you eat often you will not crave these foods because your body will be getting sustained energy and it will not have to try to manipulate your brain to try to get energy. Your body cannot use more food than it needs for a 4 hour period. The job of insulin is to come in and break down food into energy (glucose) and get it into the cells where it is needed within a certain period of time. If you feed your body more than it needs, the body will simply release more and more insulin and will put the extra food into fat storage.
Eat small amounts every 3-4 hours. If you limit your portions at meals you can make room for extra calories as snacks. This leads to more energy, increased metabolism, and decreased cravings for high sugar and high fat foods.