Originally published in the October 13, 2019 publication of Bradford Today, licensed nutritionist Nonie De Long warns against snacking and gives some healthy snack food alternatives.
I enjoy reading the articles in the Bradford newspaper. I have a question about snack ideas for the kids and also myself - I have a big sweet tooth! I was baking homemade cookies and rice krispie squares last year but these don’t do anything for my figure and you suggest not to eat grains. Well what should I do then for snacks? Thank you!
Thank you for writing in! I highly suspect you aren’t going to like my answer, but I don’t believe in sugar coating the truth (or anything), so I’m going to give you my take straight up!
There is no reason for humans to be snacking unless they are athletes. Meals are enough. You do not need the extra calories and will actually shorten your life and increase your disease risk by snacking. I strongly feel fuller meals are a better solution for a few reasons. You might want to put this down now because it’s not the answer you were seeking, but don’t stop reading yet! The meals can be really snacky and enjoyable. Read on and I will share!
First, I suggest more satisfying meals instead of snacks because often snacks are sweet while meals are savoury. People who become accustomed to sweet foods quickly lose their appetite for healthier, more savoury dishes. They will even get to a point where meat makes them gag and savoury dishes need to be followed by sweets immediately. I highly suspect this is because of a candida overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract. I have come to believe it has a consciousness that somehow communicates to our bodies to create sweet cravings to the exclusion of other foods. Yes, this sounds like hocus pocus. But it’s actually not unheard of with parasitic organisms. There are other behaviour altering parasites known to infect insects and cause the insect to position itself such that it is likely to be eaten by a predator that the host wants/needs to infect. I am not making this up! I have been researching candida for about 22 years and that is my current theory on how it impacts our cravings. It needs sweets and starches to survive so it hijacks our brains somehow to elicit strong cravings for them. Whether it is the candida expressing it’s needs, as I suspect, or just our taste buds becoming acclimatized to sweets, once we start replacing savoury with sweet flavours our bodies start to want sweets to the exclusion of savoury dishes.
Second, people who snack tend to unconsciously skip meals because they aren’t hungry, only to later eat snack foods instead. This becomes a cycle: because they snacked just before meal time, when the next meal comes around they aren’t hungry again. So they skip that meal, too. That means they need something later, but don’t want to cook because now it’s late. So they snack again. I see this all the time. What’s worse, I see parents allowing children to do it. When this is allowed in childhood the children do not learn healthy food habits for the foundation of good health in adulthood.
Third, we usually perceive meals as something we need to prepare and which should be well rounded. Snacks are not. There is no thought to what the snack should be paired with to be nutritionally complete. Snacks are often chosen not for their nutritional value, but for their mouth feel, crunch, or flavour profile. This is all referred to as “the bliss point” in food science. What it means is the exact texture, sweetness, saltiness, etc. that is going to make you want more and more of that product. Snack foods are actually manufactured to create addictive eating! Which brings me to my next point.
Fourth, snack foods are often consumed without awareness, out of the bag, or out of a package of some kind, with no portion control, and while doing something else. So we aren’t aware of when it’s time to stop. We are just mindlessly reaching into that bag, while driving, working, watching TV. With a meal we sit at the table, serve the food on plates or in bowls, eat with intention and, hopefully, gratitude. And, we know that it takes about 20 minutes after the body has enough food for leptin, the satiety hormone, to be signalled. So you can keep eating for 20 minutes after you’re actually full and not even know it if you’re not listening to your body. And if you eat too much junk food for too long, guess what happens to leptin? You become resistant to it and never feel satisfied. This is very closely tied to insulin resistance (read sugars and excess carbs). So you’re starting to see why I really don’t suggest snacking.
Snacking is quite simply a recipe for disaster in terms of health outcomes. It shouldn’t need saying, but our public healthcare system was never meant to be a substitute for common sense. Replacing meals with convenience food (snacks) has many many repercussions on our health and our collective healthcare system. It’s really in nobody’s best interest. Except, of course, the processed food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.
Having said that, there are ways to enjoy nutritious munchie foods without detriment to your health. One is by making the snacks so healthy they can be a meal replacement and the other is by learning how to safely have one cheat night every week or two. This is something I teach all my clients after they have effectively stabilized their blood sugar response (insulin/ leptin).
If you are hungry between meals the real reason is not hunger, but insulin resistance, related to repeated blood sugar spikes. I call it gremlins. You know it: that growly, rumbly tummy feeling! It’s a clear sign you have been running on sugar and your body wants another fix. Anyone who suffers this needs to see me or another professional who can guide them to get it under control because ‘hunger’ between meals is not a normal or healthy metabolic state. Especially when we are fat, which the body should know how to break down for fuel. That’s the entire biological purpose of it, after all!
And these gremlins are not actually hunger pains, as we have been taught to believe. They are cravings and nothing more. They pass within 20-40 minutes of starting if you wait long enough to let them pass. I suggest clients have a coffee or tea or cup of bouillon/ bone broth and focus on something else. They are surprised how well this works.
In fact, snacking between meals is not something that even entices us once our bodies are fat adapted. This is why people talk about intermittent fasting as easy in this state - because skipping meals doesn’t even cause hunger once we are burning ketones or able to switch into that state, and we have any excess adipose (fat) tissue to burn. So the first part of my answer is that it’s best for adults to keep snacking to one night per week and otherwise as part of a meal or an occasional meal replacement if the snack is in line with their diet, like fat bombs, for example. By doing this, the snack is at the same time the meal normally happens, which ensures it doesn’t turn into a cycle that gets out of control. It should happen with clear boundaries and a plate or bowl and portion control and intentional eating, where you are at a table, focused on your food and not at a screen or activity of some kind.
Some healthy snack ideas I have are:
Crudites and healthy dip or hummus
Grain free crackers and hummus (bean or cashew) or guacamole
Salmon salad on celery sticks
Nut butter on celery sticks
Cucumber rounds with flavoured sour cream
Kale chips as part of a larger meal
Homemade yogurt with fresh fruit
Organic popping corn with grass fed butter and nutritional yeast
Toasted seeds (with or without a bit of honey and sea salt)
Sweet potato flatbreads with dip, sliced boiled eggs, sprouts
Natural smoked / preserved meats
Low sugar omg organic haystacks (my recipe)
And many many more!
Samantha, I hope this doesn’t discourage you! Of course, one night a week if you feel you would like cheese puffs or something else you know is probably not very wholesome, like grandma’s cookies, or sweet pumpkin pie and ice cream for example, try to eat it after a well rounded meal to make sure it doesn’t spike your insulin too high. And serve it on a plate with portion control, instead of eating out of the bag. This even works for pizza to help us know how much we’ve had! Setting aside a day each weekend for that treat will also help you in making sure you don’t slide. If you need help getting control over cravings, contact me directly. We should be able to choose our food with a clear head, and be able to say no when it serves us.
As always, if you have your own health questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email.
Nonie De Long is a registered orthomolecular nutritionist with a clinic in Bradford West Gwillimbury, where she offers holistic, integrative health care for physical and mental health issues. Check out her website here.