I think it is safe to say that our modern western society is the society of perpetual and constant snackers. We snack when we hungry and when we are bored, when we are tired and when we are stressed… We make our children snack constantly, because the unthinkable may happen, and they experience the ever slightest pang of hunger. There’s also this widely publicized idea of having 5-6 small meals per day to improve one’s metabolism and manage weight. The latter idea is not a terrible one, if those small meals are meals structured around 2oz. or so of high quality protein and a whole food based side the size of your palm. However, I dare say, that the vast majority of people eat their snacks/meals in the form of prepackaged, boxed, wrapped, highly PROCESSED substances that provide little to no quality nutritional value, but an abundance of sugar, hard to pronounce ingredients and an exorbitant amount of EMPTY calories. And yes, even organically manufactured snacks are not your best choice nutritionally.
So, what is a person to do? I come from a culture where snacking has always been discouraged. My mom used to not allow any snacking between the meals as she was convinced we would not eat a “proper meal” during regular meal times. As much as I resented the idea growing up, today I believe it is not a bad approach. Your meals should be large and nutritious enough to sustain you until your next “proper” meal. Also, simply put, it is a good idea to allow your digestive system to “take a break” from constantly having to digest something, and to give glucagon and leptin (as well as other hormones of the digestive system) time to do their job. 4-5 hour break between meals is a pretty good target. If you are working a physically demanding job, with long hours or have an especially active metabolism, you may increase your meals to 4.
Now onto what you should eat if you MUST have a snack. Doing a 21DSD is a perfect time to also change your snacking habits, don’t you agree? It’s a good idea to stop thinking about snack in terms of “snack foods”. Your snack or mini meal should be composed around the same principles of dense nutrition as a regular meal and should consist of whole foods. That means a quality protein source in a smaller amount, and/or a vegetable, and/or a source of high quality fat. There are some beautiful snack options available when we start thinking literally “outside the box”:
- Chicken bites (from the chicken course the day before)
- Compliant and clean ingredient deli meats, like roasted turkey, chicken and beef that can be made info roll-ups for ease of consumption
- Cut-up veggies
- Mini egg frittata muffins
- A green apple
- A green tipped banana
- A handful of raw nut of your choice
- A handful of raw coconut flakes of your choice
- Kale chips
- If you must have an easy store-bought snack, seasnax are great! Available at Whole Foods Market and other grocery stores, as well as online.
- Almond butter packs. My favorite ones are by Artisana. Be sure to check labels to make sure it contains just raw almonds without sugar and additives.
- Compliant epic bars
- Beef sticks/jerky. Always be sure to check the labels!
Switching to a whole foods based diet opens up so many possibilities! Changing a lifelong habit is hard and it does seem like an insurmountable task in the beginning, but as you go through this process, you will notice so many incredible positive changes that will make it all worth it. I promise. Remember, where there’s pain, there’s growth. The transformation is magical and you are the one in control of just how profound the resulting change is going to be. You can do it!