While snacking isn’t a bad thing, new research is showing when you snack may have a bearing on how much weight you lose. Particularly, researchers at the Fred Huntchinson Cancer Research Center have found mid-morning snacks may be detrimental to weight loss.
Published in the December issue of the American Dietetic Association, the study assessed the eating behaviors of 123 postmenopausal women who were overweight or obese. While those who ate a mid-morning snack after eating a healthy breakfast lost 7 percent of their body weight, those who skipped a snack until after lunch, lost 11 percent. Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and member of the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division and director of its Prevention Center, had this to say about the results: “We think this finding may not relate necessarily to the time of day one snacks, but rather to the short interval between breakfast and lunch. Mid-morning snacking therefore might be a reflection of recreational or mindless eating habits rather than eating to satisfy true hunger.”
Screen Time Blurs Mealtime
A separate study found that participants who played games on the computer while eating lunch ate twice as many post-lunch snacks as did undistracted eaters. This makes the case for eating mindfully. Even if you’re unable to leave work to eat, don’t sit at your computer screen. If at home, turn off the television and eat at your dining table. Your stomach and brain will thank you for it. The study also found computer players had less memory of what they ate at lunch, and felt less full following the meal.
Snacks with Too Many Calories
Weight loss efforts may also be hampered by eating too much at snack time. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which provides information on the health and nutritional status of Americans, found that Americans’ snacking now accounts for the equivalent of a 4th meal or around 580 calories a day. Tiernan suggests incorporating snacks that are no more than 200 calories per serving. A good rule of thumb is to have a snack that’s only about 10 percent of your total daily caloric intake. If you eat a bigger snack, consider cutting calories from the meal before and after that snack.
The Best Snacks
Tiernan’s study also found those who had afternoon snacks ate more fruits and vegetables than those who skipped a snack between lunch and dinner. To bridge the gap between meals, eat fibrous and protein-rich foods to stay satiated. Tiernan suggests “low-fat yogurt, string cheese, or a small handful of nuts; non-starchy vegetables; fresh fruits; whole-grain crackers; and non-calorie beverages such as water, coffee and tea.”
Functional snacks stave off hunger when there is a significant amount of time between meals. Snacking for any other reason may hinder your weight loss goals. Tiernan adds, “Our study suggests that snacking may actually help with weight loss if not done too close to another meal.” Posit snacks at the midpoint of your longest stretch between meals. Turn off the TV, smartphone, or computer, and leave room for your next meal.
Do you schedule your snacks and if so, when do you have them each day?