According to recent statistics, the average British woman snacks twice a day, commonly eating crisps, nuts or popcorn seven times a week. If we weren’t before, we’re now officially a nation of snackers, but at what cost to our health? With an increasing number of nutritionists – including authorities Amelia Freer and Jasmine Hemsley – suggesting we should be ditching the snacks in favour of three meals a day, we did some research. Here are five reasons you should stop snacking if you’re looking to brush up on the health front...
As nutritional therapist Amelia Freer explains, “Our bodies weren’t designed to eat a steady flow of food as and when we choose, let alone the never-ending cups of caffeine or access to the high sugar and high carbs that now feature in our daily diets.” Snacking constantly actually confuses the metabolism and causes insulin spikes throughout the day – the exact opposite of what you want when trying to keep trim and healthy.
More Fat Storage
Snacking puts our bodies in fat storage mode, as a result of the insulin it makes us produce. Don’t believe the myth that eating little and often will boost your metabolism – in fact, studies suggest it’s quite the opposite with many nutritionists saying you should leave around five hours between each meal for optimal fat burning. Plus, research has also shown eating less frequently can boost your stay-young, lean-muscle hormones.
“With easy access to a constant stream of food, we get used to being full all the time and become fearful of hunger,” explains Amelia Freer. “Many people never feel hungry; they eat because they’re bored, stressed, in need of a treat or a break.” Nutritionist Lisa Blair adds that you should avoid eating breakfast at the same time every day – unless you’re genuinely hungry – and if your meals are balanced with protein, low-GI carbs, fibre and healthy fats, you can keep going. “Then eat when your tummy rumbles, not when your work gets tricky,” she explains. In short, ditching the snacks could re-train your brain to recognise true hunger.
One of the dangers of snacking is that it can add additional calories to your day. By unconsciously eating an extra 100 calories per day beyond the calories you burn, you could gain 4.5kg in a year. If you’re a strict calorie counter and find yourself raiding the fridge for treats the minute you get home from work, consider eating more calories at breakfast and lunch – this will satisfy you, balance blood sugar and mean you’ll naturally be less tempted to snack.
Less Mindful Eating
Reducing the amount of times you’re snacking will make you more conscious and aware of how and why you’re using food. However, if you’re stuck at work and haven’t had dinner, or you’re travelling and don’t have access to meals, then a portion of nuts, seeds or some apple slices with peanut butter will help to balance blood sugar. If you’re genuinely hungry between meals – and not just bored – do the same, but, as Amelia Freer explains, “it’s a sign you need to look at your meals to see how they can be improved.”
4 Ways To Break The Snacking Habit
Eat fat for breakfast: Don’t be scared of fat – it can boost feelings of satiety and help to balance mood and hunger hormones. A green juice alone won’t suffice – eat a couple of poached or boiled eggs for a rounded meal.
Think protein & fat: Make an effort to include fat, protein and plants at every meal – the combination of lean protein, healthy fats and fibre will quash sweet cravings.
Try sugar-free: Cutting back on sugar is a sure-fire way to ease cravings for sweet snacks over time. The easiest way to do this is to make breakfast sugar free. Rather than replacing sugar with carb-heavy foods, look to the likes of eggs, avocado and salmon.
Start slowly: If you’re looking to cut back on snacks, try starting with a three-hour gap between meals and add an extra 30 minutes to your fasting over a period of three weeks.