Why Do We Snack?

I love a good snack. It keeps me going during long afternoons and it provides an opportunity for a nice break from work. Who doesn’t like sitting down with a cuppa and a muesli bar or some veggie sticks and dip?

As we head into the new year, it seems like everyone is stepping up their diet regime, and there is so much advice out there concerning the humble snack. Health and fitness proponents are very big on the idea of snacking at regular intervals to help stoke the metabolism fire.

You’ll often hear or read advice to the effect that you must eat every few hours to keep your metabolism up, go too long between meals and you’ll risk slowing your metabolism down. Recent research suggests that, at least from a metabolic rate perspective, there is little difference in metabolic rates between those who snack and those who prefer three square meals a day.

So why, then do we feel the need to snack?

As I said in the introduction, I like the break that I get from what I’m doing when I have a snack. It’s refreshing to sit down over a drink and some food so I’m ready to get back into work. Regular breaks from work are important to keep us focused and on task.

It is a good top up between meals. Considering that lunch might be at 1pm and dinner might not be until 7, a well-placed snack in the middle of the afternoon can keep you focused and going until dinner. We’ve all been there, at the vending machine reaching for a chocolate bar at 3pm because we’re starving. Planning a small nutritious snack is a good way to circumvent the vending machine trip.

It’s also a good way to help squeeze a few more things into your day, for example an evening gym session or run. I don’t know how many times I have finished work and wished I had a snack on hand so I could go to the gym before heading home. I am so hungry by this point that I skip my workout so I can go home and eat! If only I had a snack I think to myself.

By definition, snacks do not exceed 600 Kj. They are meant to be a small top up between meals. I think that we (and I’m definitely including myself in this category!) tend to over do our snacks and make them bigger than they need to be. For example: I’ve worked in cafes where customers would regularly come in for morning tea- banana bread and a cappuccino. Sounds reasonable, right? Isn’t that a pretty standard snack? It’s a common snack but not an ideal one. The banana bread alone has about 2,000 kj in it-and that’s before adding butter to that nicely toasted slice. Add a small full fat cappuccino to that and you’ve got more kilojoules than a large meal! And all this is eaten as a “between meal” meant to tide you over until lunch.

So its important to remember your portions when snacking and this will be something I will be covering in the next few weeks. My last recipe post was so popular that I’m doing another. Next week I’ll share my favorite home made snacks with you.

It’s important to remember however, that you don’t have to snack if you don’t wish to. If you prefer to eat three good meals a day, then go for it! You definitely don’t need to snack in order to have a healthy diet.

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