Our Snack Obsession...And Why it's Hurting Our Health
Remember when you came home from school and your mom fed you a snack? :) And it was, like the best part of the day....okay, fair enough, we had lunch at nearly 10 AM in high school, so by the time 3 pm rolled around, we were always starving (skipping breakfast didn't help!)
I recently read an article about snacking...and it pretty much infuriated me. I won't mention the article title or where the article came from because I do not want to spread this "knowledge," but I will disclose that it was for health and fitness professionals with the tagline "Check out the best ways to make sure your clients snack wisely."
Considering my holistic approach to health is very different than majority of the information put out there, I should have never picked it up...but I digress.
There were some interesting statistics thrown in the article...
According to the US government's most recent What We Eat in America survey, 97% of US adults snack at least once a day.
97?!?! Basically everyone?
From the same study, over 25% of overall calories consumed in a day came from our snacks.
A 2013 Hartman study found that 48% of Americans skip meals at least 3 times a week and snack instead.
The most popular snacks:
Morning: yogurt, bakery goods, snack bars
Afternoon: chips, fruit
Evening: candy, ice cream
Does anyone else sense a trend here?? (carbs, carbs, carbs)
This next one I found very interesting...
Researchers developed a "satiety" index, with white bread as the standard in a recent experiment. They tested 38 foods, of which boiled potatoes provided the most satiety and yogurt scored the worst. In fact, yogurt scored LOWER than the white bread on the satiety index.
Yes, I do have the same questions about this study...How did they measure this? Who did they test? What did they test? When were they given the foods? But still, interesting.
My main problem with the article was the advice it provided about the types of snacks to eat...it basically said "eat yogurt with fruit, granola bars, bagels instead of muffins, pita chips instead of potato chips, and portion size the candy and ice cream."
So maybe I'm being a little harsh...those may be some big changes for some people, but I still don't understand why we give this advice like these foods are going to be "healthier." Everything listed = insulin surges for the body, money in Big Food's pockets...and they severely lack nutrients. Candy and ice cream really don't add much nutritional value, no matter how small the portion, folks.
Whole pieces of fruit with nut butter or coconut butter, veggies with hummus or guacamole, hard boiled eggs, quality lunch meat rolled with avocado or a hummus spread...why are these not offered as some alternatives? I'm always focusing on nutrition first...not convenience or excuses, whether that makes it popular or not.
However, I have an issue with snacking in general....(Man, did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed today or what?)
1. Why do you need a snack in the first place?
If you are eating 3 well-rounded meals, are snacks REALLY necessary? I can understand an afternoon snack if you have lunch at noon and cannot have dinner until 7. That is a long period of time, but our meals should really be able to sustain us longer than 2-3 hours.
Is it that you are not eating enough at the meal before? Are you eating primarily carbs that you burn through too quickly? Is it that you are following a rule that someone said you have to eat 5-6 times a day to lose weight? (<< I've only read that every other article. Sighs. No, this doesn't keep your "metabolism firing.")
2. Snacking hurts the natural digestive process.
Digestion is EVERYTHING in terms of health. It affects the nutrients we get from our food, the microbiome of our gut, the overall function of our cells...just everything. When I work with clients, digestion is absolutely my top priority.
Most of us do not understand our own anatomy...which is crazy that we do not even understand how our body is designed to work, when you really think about it! Many of us suffer from a LACK of stomach acid, despite the ads for Tums and Antacids on TV (Lack of stomach acid is also the cause of acid reflux in about 90% of people, FYI). Stomach acid is critical for breaking down our food in the stomach and how digestion functions downstream, but it also helps our immune system and protects us from pathogens.
When you eat too frequently, you are constantly mixing food in your stomach, both digested and undigested. The stomach takes on average 4-5 hours to empty and the trigger is reaching a certain acidity level. If you are putting food in there every 2-3 hours, you are disrupting the natural digestive process, not to mention you are never giving digestion a break (and it is a complex process!).
It's like browning 1/2 a pound of meat, and then throwing in the other 1/2 pound right before you want to eat it...how does that work?
3. You think about food all the time.
When people have these meal plans that "require" them eating every 2-3 hours, all you really do is eat, assuming you aren't taking 10 seconds to shove a meal down your throat. Eating this frequently may be appealing to some, but how productive can you really be if you are constantly thinking about food?
I've also found that it causes an unhealthy obsession around food. I can say that rather confidently because I used to be in this camp. Looking back, it was more a combination of digestive and blood sugar issues that were my problem, but I have to admit, I'm MUCH happier on the other side.
4. Boredom? Convenience? Lifestyle?
It really bothers me when Big Food Giants profit at the expense of our health. Think about the snack foods listed above. Farmers are not really benefitting, are they? How many vending machines have you seen with fresh, local produce?
In offices today, vending machines and "snack foods" are so easily accessible, we are set up to fail. Think about willpower and self-control....it has to weaken after making SO MANY decisions in a day. Plus, walking by the vending machine every time you have to use the restroom...I mean "Why Not?" It was staring at you anyway.
It's like that ad on the side of your Facebook feed of the shoes you looked at last week....they see you.
Not to mention our stress levels, blood sugar issues, and afternoon crashes (all related by the way)...doomed, just doomed.
I need to add one caveat here...having multiple mini meals throughout the day IS appropriate for some people and I have recommended it for clients in specific situations...however, I would NOT want someone to live forever with this protocol. It relates to blood sugar dysfunction and supporting the digestive system at the same time.
If you made it through that rant, I have to give you credit! I wasn't sure I was going to be able to stop.
Are you Team #NoSnacking too?
Let me know over on Facebook: Kate Markovitz, NTC or Instagram: @katemarkovitz.
I hope this has provided some valuable information for you. Feel free to share with a friend that may need to hear it as well!