Nutritionists have told us for many years that the best way to eat is to eat a little, often. The problem with this philosophy is that we have become a snacking nation. It also seems that we ignore the part that says a “little” and only focus on the part that says to eat often! Furthermore, it seems that we are snacking on junk foods like crisps, chocolate, biscuits and other foods high in calories instead of healthy foods like fruit!
Professor Stephen Atkin, head of diabetes and metabolism at Hull York Medical School says “For many, snacking is a major cause of weight gain”. Professor Naveed Sattar from metabolic medicine at Glasgow university says, “Snacking gives us extra calories and the fact is, extra calories make us fat”. Apart from the extra calories we are eating it also seems that eating throughout the day counteracts our bodies ability to burn off fat. Professor Atkin adds, “In my view, the ideal would be not to snack at all. It’s normal to feel hungry before a meal”.
The science says that when we eat our body releases insulin to help carry sugar into the cells to burn as energy. The energy from this sugar will keep our body going for about 3 hours at which point it will have to use our fat stores. Professor Atkin explains that if we can last 4-5 hours between meals then our body will have used all the energy from the carbohydrates we have eaten. At this point the body can then start the metabolisation of the fat stores to get more energy. Snacking through the day also means a consistently higher level of blood sugars and fat which can put more stress on organs such as your liver and pancreas.
It also seems that snacking may be bad for our teeth! When we eat fruit or something sugary the pH in our mouths become more acidic and remains in this acidic state for about 20 minutes. This is the time when decay and erosion occurs. Snacking will cause this cycle to happen more often!
If you must snack then try following these helpful ideas:
- PLAN – Take a healthy snack to work with you so you don’t buy something unhealthy from a vending machine.
- CHANGE – Slowly change your snacking habits to include healthy options instead of biscuits, chocolates and cakes.
- NO DISTRACTIONS – Eating snacks while doing something else can mean you unknowingly eat more calories.
- REDUCE SNACKING – Try and go for 4-5 hours without snacking between two of your main meals.
Tell us about your snacking habits.