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  • Alison Acerra MS, RDN

Hopes, dreams...snacks?

Updated: Feb 1


Above: One of my fave snack breaks: plain full fat yogurt, small sliced apple, topped with shaved coconut and cinnamon.


Snacking has gotten a bad rap, and yet, in these Covid times, we are doing a lot of it! According to a Foodinsights survey, snacking habits have changed since the pandemic began. One in 3 (36%) report snacking more, while 33% said they’re snacking more often when bored or not hungry and 32% said they’re eating more snacks alone.


Is Snacking Bad For Me?

Whether catching criticism from the intermittent-fasting crowd (an approach with many benefits, though most definitely NOT for everyone) or among others who believe these small food breaks lead to unhealthy choices and weight gain, many believe snacking is definitely not a habit to embrace. Snacking without some mindfulness - i.e. eating for distraction, eating to ease emotional discomfort isn't the kind of snacking we are recommending here!


Snacking is intended to bridge the gap between meal times, satiating hunger with just enough, giving our brains and our bodies the fuel it needs to stay clear and high functioning. While some of us legitimately don't have much need for snacks, others can reap the benefits of a blood sugar/brain/energy boost of a well timed, healthy mini food break.


But not only is there a place for healthy snacking, it plays an underappreciated role in nourishing us so that we may achieve the things we want most in life.


So wait, hopes, dreams,...snacks?

Yep, that's right! Snacks and mini meals are the ‘micro-food’ moments that directly impact the ‘micro-moments’ of our lives. Every food choice we make, whether conscious or not impacts our thoughts, feelings and actions. Whether it be the raise

or the promotion, the healthy relationship, the finances to buy the new house, or developing solutions to the world’s problems, well-timed, nutritious snacks can play a role in helping us get there.


Food As The Foundation

We are thinking, feeling and acting in every moment and each of those moments is a stepping stone on the path to self-actualizing and achieving our fullest potential. If this conjures up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we are in sync! Among water, warmth and rest, food sits as one of the most basic of our physiological needs. While most of us here are incredibly privileged to have an abundance of calories available to us at any moment, the quality of those calories matters, a lot. (We can point to the disproportionate impact of Covid on low-income, minority communities living in "food deserts" to see how food quality impacts physical and other measures of health.)


So let's consider 2 eating patterns, distinctly different in diet quality.

So that begs the question, which one is going to get us where we want to go?


So what does this have to do with snacking?

While meal times are often easier for us to get in most of our nutrient dense foods ("Eating Pattern #2"), snacks are where we tend to do "Eating Pattern #1!" This makes sense! We are biologically driven to seek out certain foods in times of stress that can help increase levels of soothing serotonin and pleasure-inducing dopamine. While I won’t ever label foods as good or bad, Eating Pattern #1 is going to create problems. We don’t need a lot of research to tell us that eating this way leaves us feeling tired, moody, unfocused, unproductive and just...bad. The image of Sisyphus comes to mind, pushing the boulder up that hill, never quite making the progress we want to make. But when snacking aligns with Eating Pattern #2 we get what we need from food to keep us nourished and fueled to show up as the best version of ourselves.


And this right here is how we make our hopes and dream a reality.


But Is Snacking Bad For Me?

Whether catching criticism from the intermittent-fasting crowd (an approach with many benefits, though most definitely NOT for everyone) or among others who believe these small food breaks lead to unhealthy choices and weight gain, if you are wondering, "is snacking bad for me?" you aren't alone. Snacking without some mindfulness - i.e. eating for distraction, eating to ease emotional discomfort - is not the kind of snacking we are recommending here!


Snacking is intended to bridge the gap between meal times, satiating hunger with just enough, giving our brains and our bodies the fuel it needs to stay clear and high functioning. While some of us legitimately don't have much need for snacks, others can reap the benefits of a blood sugar/brain/energy boost of a well timed, healthy mini food break.


Benefits of Snacking

When we make great choices, snacking can help fuel our health and make us productive powerhouses. Here are some benefits:

  • 2-3 opportunities each day to take in nutrient dense foods for a healthy body and mind.

  • Satisfies hunger – prevents overeating at mealtimes - hunger left unchecked can make it much harder to eat just what we need when we do finally sit down to a meal.

  • Aids workout fueling & recovery.

  • Helps maintain steady blood sugars, steady focus, concentration - this one’s a biggy! Unsteady blood sugars caused by highly processed foods can leave us feeling depressed, hangry, unfocused, exhausted and hungry perpetuating cravings and sub-optimal food choices.


As always the approach that works best is the one that works for you and beyond just good health, brings ease and enjoyment.


Hacking Snacking

Here’s a super easy approach I love because it’s fairly diet agnostic….whether you are vegetarian, vegan, keto or somewhere in between, there is something for you. Here’s how it works:

  1. Check out the ingredients of a snack hack: fiber, protein, fat and fluids

  2. Pick 2 or pick 3 + fluids (e.g. protein+fiber+fluids, fiber+fat+fluids)

The key is to choose fiber rich options, healthy proteins and healthy sources of fat in an amount that will take the edge off and bridge the gap to your next meal. Healthy hydration is also critical to maintaining focus, clarity and productivity and can also help keep cravings in check.


Alison Acerra MS, RDN founded Strategic Nutrition Design where she and her team provide nutrition services to businesses, employers, groups and individuals. If you would like to schedule a discovery call to learn how Strategic Nutrition Design can help you or your business, contact her here.


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