Posted By Lisa Breitenwischer- HHC
For years, fitness trainers and nutritionists have been telling us to graze – eat little and often – up to 5 or 6 small meals a day, to boost our metabolism, keep our blood sugar levels balanced and deter us from overeating unhealthy food. Sounds good in theory, but does it really work? Studies have shown, the problem with grazing is that many people ignore the bit about eating only a little, hearing only the message to ‘eat often’. The result is we’ve become a nation of snackers, and the billion dollar snack industry LOVES it.
Unfortunately, many snacks are often high in calories- eating all day also undermines our body’s ability to burn off fat. Here’s the science: When we eat, our body releases insulin – a hormone that helps carry sugar into the cells to burn as energy. This sugar energy will keep us going for around three hours, after which our bodies will start using energy from our fat stores.
Many people believe that if they don’t eat little and often they run the risk of becoming hypoglycemic, which is when blood sugar levels become low, causing mood swings, light-headedness and feeling shaky. The fact is, unless you are diabetic, your body is very good at regulating blood sugar itself and there’s no need to eat constantly. If we eat a nutrient dense meal, we should feel energized for up to four hours before we start feeling hungry again. Once most of the food has been digested, your internal appetite regulators will start sending messages for more food, but your blood sugar won’t dip so low that you have a hypo, unless you have a genuine problem with your blood sugar levels. Snacking on sugary, high-carbohydrate foods is more likely to make blood sugar levels fluctuate wildly – which can make you feel more hungry, rather than less.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t snack, but rather to snack smart. If you’re going to be eating 5 small meals a day, a couple of those will no doubt be snacks. Make sure these snacks are an appropriate portion size and are nutrient dense. The more nutrient dense foods you consume, the more you will be satisfied with fewer calories, and crave less low-nutrient, empty calorie foods. Examples of nutrient dense foods are vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, seeds and nuts. The goal of each snack is to tide you over for a couple hours until your next small meal, not to become a habit of mindlessly eating and grazing throughout the day. Think about your food as fueling you to accomplish your daily activities, not to slow you down and make you feel sluggish.
So what do we do? Here are a few things I recommend to my clients:
- Make sure your eating a balanced diet incorporating whole grains, protein and veggies.
- Drink some water. Dehydration can manifest as mild hunger.
- Keep a food log to become aware of what you’re eating, how often and how much.
- Get up and move around when you feel like snacking, it will energize you.
- Never eat when doing something mindless, like watching TV.
- If you need a snack, eat a piece of fruit, a dill pickle, raw sugar snap peas, carrots and hummus, or plain Greek yogurt.
Oh, and don’t forget to allow yourself an occasional decadent treat and enjoy it fully!
If you are looking for motivational guidance to help improve your diet, contact Lisa at Lisa@balancingenergy.com. She will create a personalized, one-on-one program just for you!