Updated: Jul 20, 2022
Snacking has somehow got a bad reputation in diet culture. It's likely because of the "less is more" mindset that a lot of us have when it comes to food. If we're trying to eat as little as possible then certainly snacks have no place! But hear me out and imagine this scenario...
You eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner but often get hungry in between meals. You're tying to "be good" so you just drink some water and go on with your day. It's evening now and you've finished dinner and all your work for the day and you finally sit down on the couch to relax for a little before bed when it hits....uncontrollable cravings.
These cravings in the evenings are likely happening for a few reasons:
1) You ignored hunger throughout the day which means you didn't eat enough
2) You are finally relaxed and can better hear those hunger signals
3) You associate that down time/watching TV with having a snack....it's a habit more so than physical hunger
4) You're sitting with uncomfortable emotions and want to feel better
Some of these things require some deep digging and dealing with uncomfortable emotions and food rules that you've created for yourself. If you feel that these are reasons holding you back from being able to properly fuel your body, I definitely recommend working with a Dietitian/Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor (book a 15 minute intro call or fill out the application on my site and let's chat) and/or a therapist that specializes in disordered eating.
We can also help to avoid these intense cravings for food by listening to our body and giving it what it needs and sometimes that means having a snack in between meals! Don't make it a rule that you have to include a certain number of snacks! Instead- be prepared with snacks that you enjoy so that if hunger hits you're prepared. One of the biggest reasons I see people skipping snacks (other than an attempt to eat less) is that they don't have anything to snack on and in the moment they're so hungry they can't think about what they want.
Here are a few tips to be prepared with balanced and satisfying snacks:
1) Pick 2-3 snacks that you will prep/purchase for the week. Having unlimited choices can feel overwhelming
2) Add the ingredients for these snacks to your grocery list for the week
3) Take some time to prep (if needed). Having some veggies cut up or some pretzels put into grab & go bags makes it the convenient choice which means you're more likely to eat that. Make the foods you want to eat be more convenient
4) Try to include at least 2-3 macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) so that your snack keeps you full longer. For example....an apple is a great snack but it won't keep you full for very long. Add some peanut butter or a cheese stick and now you've got a snack that is more satisfying and will keep you full longer
Kayla Fitzgerald is a Registered Dietitian & Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor located in Charleston, South Carolina. She works with clients 1:1, through small group coaching, and self guided programs. Her goal is to help you fuel your body for whatever the day has in store whether it's a 100 mile race or getting through the work day.