Snacking in the morning, snacking in the evening, snacking any old time – might become a new consumer theme song. Recent surveys say that snacking is on the increase and this has brought forward a deluge of expert advice (including this column) on how to snack in a healthy way. Unfortunately much of this well-meaning advice is both incorrect and a prescription for nutritional disaster.
A “SNACK” by definition (according to my copy of the Random House Dictionary) is “a small meal eaten between regular meals”.
Today an entire industry has evolved around a concept of providing convenient, quick, no-preparation snacks. In earlier years snacks were prepared in a home kitchen and usually had some nutritionally sound redeeming qualities. Today most snacks are purchased and presented in a bag, box, bottle or plastic wrapper and they tend to have a lengthy, non-refrigerator shelf life with questionable nutritional value.
Healthy snacks are (not just can be) an integral part of a healthy way of eating. Experience and science show that to maintain good levels of energy - without sharp peaks and valleys – we should eat every three hours. We should also start the day with a responsible breakfast that helps to set blood sugar levels and hormone patterns for the day. The most common breakfast in North America is a cup of coffee and a deep breath or maybe a load of carbohydrate like a bagel, donut or toast and jam. This absence of a good breakfast (that should include a reasonable serving of protein – more than a tablespoon of peanut butter or a single glass of milk) creates a spike in the blood sugar that raises insulin sharply and that causes blood sugar to drop quickly (we call it hypoglycemia) and leaves us hungry and can be the physiological explanation for the morning coffee break. These coffee breaks are the worst-case scenarios for poor choice snacks.
Upon recently reviewing several dozen articles and web pages on snacks I find that conventional wisdom is directing consumers to choose snacks that, although they contain vitamins & minerals, create insulin disasters. Chronically elevated insulin levels are responsible for chronic or frequent hunger, fat storage, inhibition of fat metabolism and a host of other health problems. I am referring to those conventional choices like dried fruit, muffins, bananas, boxed cereal, pretzels, bagels, dried fruit bars, many energy bars, popcorn, and rice cakes.
Wise, higher protein, higher fibre and essential fatty acid sources would include:
Plan your snacks and don’t wait until you are hungry. Happy snacking.
Lee Coyne, Ph.D. is a nutritional consultant, lecturer and author of several weight loss books, including Fat Won't Make You Fat. Dr. Coyne is also the creator of the "Lean Seekers Nutritional Coaching Program" that trains individuals on a "Better Balanced Diet" as a way of eating for better health and weight management. He may be reached at 1-800-668-4042 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Lee Coyne, Ph.D., reprinted with permission.
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