This would have to be one of the hardest questions I get and now becoming one of the most frequent.
Should I be snacking throughout the day? And if so, what should I be snacking on?
The answer to this depends on a variety of factors. There has been a lot of evidence in saying that eating 6 smaller meals per day has been shown to aid in weight loss due to boosting your metabolism. The majority of studies, however, have been completed on obese males. So yes if you an obese male, this may help to slightly promote weight loss and speed up your metabolism. This, however is very contrary to the current research that shows that Eating 6 Vs. 3 meals per day does not provide any significant effect or dramatic change on weight in the majority of people.
Whether you should be eating 3 or 6 meals can depend on a variety of factors:
1. Your lifestyle
I ask my clients what their lifestyle is like and if they are physically active or not. If they are exercising most days and have a physically grueling job, then they will need to eat a greater amount of food and more often to fuel their bodies and keep up their calorie intake. And whether you have time to be eating 6 smaller meals or snacks a day. I know most new mums barley find time to eat 3 meals per day so asking them to eat 6 times would not be realistic.
2. Are you eating out of hunger or boredom?
Learning to recognise the signs when you are eating out of boredom instead of it being hunger will help to stop the cycle of overeating and mindless eating that lots of people can get trapped into especially when snacking. It is so easy when snacking to have the same amount of calories as in a meal if you don't control the amount of snacks that you do eat. So If you do find yourself getting hungry, having planned snacks throughout the day and also making sure that you have healthy nutritious snacks on hand if you are out and about or at work will make sure that when hunger strikes you aren't reaching for the lolly jar or cookie cupboard.
3. Do you get hungry between meals?
This is the main thing you need to ask yourself. Do you get hungry between meals? If you do, then yes having a snack will help tide you over until the next meal and make sure that you don't overeat or snack on the wrong things at your next meal. If you do get hungry, look at that last meal you ate and assess whether it was big enough or nutritious enough. If you have had a decent meal, you should be able to get from lunch to dinner without being ravenous in between. It's about tuning into your body and really listening as to what it needs. If you aren't hungry then you don't need to eat, if you are hungry, then a nutritious snack can definitely help and stop you reaching for the cheese and biscuits before dinner.
if you are snacking throughout the day, this is what you need to look at and be vary of
1. Look at the portion size of your meals
If you are starting to feel hungry 1 or 2 hours after a meal, take a look at the portion size of your meal and what you ate. It could be that you are not eating enough at each meal and so need a snack in between or if you added more vegetables/ protein to your meal this will keep you fuller for longer and not as ravenous when the next meal comes along.
2. Make sure that the snacks are nutritious and substantial
If the snacks that you are eating are not substantial enough then you could feel hungry shortly after and could end up overeating. By making sure that you have a wholesome, nutritious snack, it will not only give you the energy you need, but will also get you through until the next meal
Some good Snack Suggestions
- Corn thins and hummus or avocado
- yoghurt and fruit
- Vegetable sticks and dip
- Some air popped pop corn and mixed nuts
- A piece of fruit and some nuts
- A chia pudding.
So all in all, if you eat 3 vs. 6 meals per day varies for everyone and there is no magic answer to how many you should eat as it is so individualized and each day can be very different depending on what you've eaten that day and how your body is feeling.