Snacking: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Posted June 17, 2015 by

For many people, snacks are more of a staple part of their diet, often, than eating regular meals themselves. Nearly every single one of us has adapted snacking as a part of our daily routine, at least at some point.

Snacking is particularly popular amongst Americans, since we have the luxury of constant access to food—especially snacks—via grocery stores, gas stations, vending machines, fast food restaurants, etc. Many think they’re harmless and forget to account for them in their daily calorie intake, but that quickly adds up.

Some say that snacking might be a good way to control binges, especially if trying to lose weight, but that might not necessarily work in your favor. This issue becomes relevant once you try to lose weight and it just seems like you can’t—could it possibly be your snacking that’s halting your progress?

Let’s take a deeper look, find out what snacking really is and how it can be doing more harm than good.

Snacks have become a staple in our diet today. It seems like everywhere you go there’s snacks around you. Whether you’re at work or simply at the gas station, they seem to just be there- as if they’re asking you to take them. So what do you do? It’s kind of hard to simply say no, as we are so accustomed to having food at the tip of our noses, all day long.

The problem is, any times we mistake simply being bored or stressed with being hungry, and if snacks are within our grasp, there’s our go-to. If we are trying to lose weight, snacking in between meals will probably not help us reach your goals, especially if we’re not taking their calorie content into consideration and are overeating.

But hey, how much damage can one cookie here and there really do, right? You would be surprised at how quickly those calories add up—not to mention the fact that many people are very bad at estimating their calorie content accurately.

Now, an extra 500 calories per day might not seem like a lot, but taking into consideration the fact that a daily 500 calorie deficit is what is needed to lose approximately 1 lb per week, adding that back in by snacking can actually wipe out your deficit and stop your weight loss in its tracks.

If you’re structuring your meals right, you shouldn’t need to snack every 2-3 hours. I understand there may be a time when you just need to eat something quick, but make sure you add that to your daily caloric intake so you don’t find yourself trying to figure out where that extra weigh came from.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who needs to snack simply because that prevents you from overeating later on, then go ahead, but do it responsibly and strategically. I would suggest to just include your snacks in you total calorie allowance in this case though.

I also used to be a “snacker”—one cookie here, a few pretzels there—until I found myself completely lost and in denial that my little snacks, even gum, had a greater (negative) effect on my body than I gave them credit for. I used to think, “What can a few pieces of gum do?” To my surprise it was literally UNDOING everything that I had worked so hard for, and QUICKLY too.

Some people snack because they believe that it keeps their metabolism going, but science has shown that there is no direct relationship between meal frequency and weight loss/metabolism. In fact, all that is necessary for weight loss to occur is for you get enough calories, while still being in an appropriate deficit at the end of the day, consistently over time. You need to burn more that you put in, whether through exercise, food or preferably, a combination of both.

Snacking often leads to something we call “calorie sneaking“. Snacks are like silent calories that we think are invisible, but our bodies keep an accurate journal whether we do consciously or not. It writes down everything: every calorie we put in our mouth, every nibble and every sip. We cannot cheat ourselves so why even try?

Finally, while not a concern for everyone, most of us have a budget of some sort to take into consideration… and the bottom line is that snacks are also quite expensive. Just think about going to the vending machine at work every day, or Starbucks for your morning coffee and muffin, or the nearby fast food restaurant for a hold-me-over when the mid-day slump hits—how much do you spend?

For many of us, it could very well add up to a nice amount of money that could be better spent elsewhere. Next time you’re eyeing those snacks, just think about your goals and keep in mind that while it might taste good for a second, it will only last a second. Are you willing to sabotage all that progress for a “little” snack?

From personal experience, success tastes better than any cookie I’ve ever had!

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