How (and what) we eat has changed. As a nation we are shifting from 3 meals a day to multiple small meals, or 3 meals and 3 snacks. Back in the day our grandmas didn’t have time to make more than three meals since they were all from scratch, and our grandpas didn’t have time to eat more than 3 meals because they worked sun-up to sun down.
Now, with working households, evolving research and a shift in the eating paradigm our days are certainly not what they once were. A day in the office might look like this; coffee, emails, yogurt, conference call, donut, coffee, emails, lunch, meetings, granola bar, dinner, TV, snacks, social media, bed. Repeat.
Sound familiar? Vaguely?
There is no problem with eating 6 smaller meals a day. In fact about 16% of Canadians are doing it1. Societal demands persuade us to work faster and longer. Time for meals has fallen to the wayside and we are all guilty of eating in the car or eating while scrolling through instagram. However, snacking may be adding calories that we would not have eaten had we stuck to 3 smaller meals. Many snacks nowadays also include a nutrient-lacking drink. A juice box, iced tea or a fancy latte etc. It doesn’t sound too harmful until we look at the 200+ extra calories we are (quickly) ingesting. Not to mention, when we dissect where these calories come from, they often aren’t nourishing. Pair one of these beverages with 200 calories of food and you have a 400 hundred calorie snack meal. Oops.
In order to stop this from happening we need to be mindful of consumption and ensure that we are getting all the nutrients we need from our combination of meals and snacks.
Here's a bit more guidance:
Just because it says snack or snack pack or snak pax or however the kids are spelling it these days doesn’t mean that it is healthy. Those granola bars and gummy packs are sugar laden regardless if they are made with “real fruit juice” or not. Solution? Homemade granola bars, and a small container of berries or grapes for a sweet bite with the added fibre of natural fruit.
Just like chocolate bars and ice cream, chips, muffins and cookies are treats. Now there’s nothing wrong with a homemade carrot muffin or a nutrient dense oatmeal cookie in you or your little one’s lunch. But recognize this is a “dessert” or a “treat”.
Fun fact – Tim Horton’s muffins have, on average, 100 more calories than their donuts. Yikes. Maybe we should start calling them cupcakes.
Include multiple food groups. Aim for 2-3 food groups per snack! It’s important to include a protein and carbohydrate. Benefits of this strategic pairing includes increased alertness, stable sugars and sustained energy. Some examples include cheese & grapes, or nuts with an apple, chicken & cherry tomatoes with a little balsamic vinegar, raw veggies with hummus, banana with almond butter, cottage cheese with black pepper and baby carrots, the list goes on!
You don’t neeeed to have snacks. As much fun as “eating-cause-I’m-bored” is…it definitely isn’t necessary. Listen to your body and eat when you experience real hunger cues. Start by drinking a cup of water, then if your body demands it, go ahead! Get nourished!
Remember, just like a meal is for nourishment, so are your snacks. You might need a little power in the mid afternoon to get you through the rest of your workday. So make it count. Give your body what it needs. A donut will result in a sugar crash, a handful of almonds and berries will give you human super powers to have the most productive 2-4pm you’ve had all week. Or something like that…
Now, in case you're interested pictured above are the top 9 snacks I tend to rotate between (from left to right):
- steamed edamame beans
- a hardboiled egg
- cottage cheese with apple and cinnamon
- energy date balls
- pear with a handful of almonds
- crackers with white bean spread
- cheddar cheese with Mary's Gone crackers
- no bake granola bars
- plain Greek yogurt with 5 ingredient berry sauce