Q: How much and how often should I snack? Is it better to eat five small meals per day or three larger ones?
A: Most people recognize that eating three balance meals a day is a healthy habit but many folks are confused about whether or not snacking is a healthy habit. Snacks, and especially the right snacks, can serve a purpose of maintaining our energy levels and helping us from getting too hungry between meals. The best definition of a snack is “a mini-meal.” A mini-meal will provide nutrition and a combination of key nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fat. A snack or “mini-meal” should serve the purpose of keeping us satisfied for a two to three hour period.
As working adults, there are some rules of thumb to determine how many snacks to plan in each day. Our body needs a regular supply of energy. Ideally we would have a moderate calorie meal every four to five hours (breakfast at 8:00 a.m., lunch at noon and Supper at 5:00 pm.) If only life were so simple. With long working hours and meals delayed, a snack can serve the purpose of keeping our energy and blood sugar stable as we wait for the 1:30 p.m. lunch or the 7:00 p.m. supper. The calories of a snack or mini-meal varies depending on one’s body’s total energy requirement. For most women, a 200-250 calorie snack seems to work well and for men a 250-300 calorie snack seems to be the right amount. You can determine if the snack you chose is the right amount for you by determining how long you stay satisfied after eating it (ideally 2-3 hours). Fruits and vegetables are often thought of as a good snack and yet they may not be filling enough to hold us to that next meal. Having a fruit or vegetable with a protein source such as peanut butter, hummus, nuts or cheese makes for a more satisfying snack.
For ideas of healthy snacks, see our photo below, and feel free to download [download id=”10″] for use later!