Friday, June 14, 2013

To snack or not to snack

Turns out snacking is a sensitive subject. People tend to be defensive about their habits, myself included. After finishing "French Kids Eat Everything" and "Outside the Box", I realize that North America is very snack-centric. Often we hear we should be consuming six "mini meals" every day for optimal health and a revved up metabolism. But many healthy cultures with low rates of obesity don't snack at all. Why the disconnect?

First of all, what we choose to snack on is important. If we're reaching for packaged carbohydrates for our snacks, we're left feeling unsatisfied and prone to overeating. Where we snack- in our cars, on the go, at our desks, also leaves us unsatisfied. Finally, how much we eat comes into play. If our six mini meals are unplanned snacks and we're really just grazing all day, it is very easy to overeat.

The North American work day isn't really set up for long lunches taken together with friends. In many healthy parts of Europe, everything shuts down for the mid day meal and when we slow down and eat with family and friends, we eat less and feel more satisfied. It is proven that eating is more than just calories and nutrients. There is a level of satiety that comes with food lovingly prepared and eaten in good company that goes far beyond the science of nutrition. But how can we adapt this to our North American way of life?

I am on holidays and have mostly cut snacks out of our children's day, while I work through what I feel is best. Right now, most of our meals are with family and bigger than a bagged lunch would be. They are  hungry at meals and they sit politely and eat well. It's made me rethink the snack culture we are a part of. During the school year, we need to snack. My son has about 20 minutes for his 11:30 lunch. They have a fruit or vegetable snack mid-morning. But without an after school snack, he would gof from 11:30-5:30 with nothing. So he needs something at 2:30 when school lets out. But this snack should be planned and contain healthy items. It should be taken at the table with friends or family (whoever is around- daycares and after school programs should take note!)

Think about this in your own life. Are you hungry for that bar you pulled from your purse or desk drawer and ate in 2 seconds? Is your snack a whole food? Even if you aren't able to eat with someone else, take 5 minutes to slow down. Smell the food. Chew slowly and think about what you're eating. See if this satisfies you more. Whatever approach, snacking or not, a plan in place will help you make good choices and prevent overeating.

Please visit my blogger site to share your thoughts in my comments section! I'm still working through my own, and that is another topic all together- no matter what you know you can always evolve nutritonally and in your fitness.

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