The most common question I get starts with these three words, “Can I have.” Nine times out of ten, the question is about a snack, and the underlying question is can I lose weight and still eat [fill in the blank]?
We live in a world where snacks are available everywhere, so it is understandable to wonder which snacks are okay when weight loss becomes a focus. However, even the healthiest snack can undermine your weight loss progress. This blog post explains why and shares how tweaking your eating pattern so that you are eating more at mealtimes and snacking less can give you the weight loss edge you’re looking for.
Snack Less – At-A-Glance
- Eating makes you want to keep eating. Limiting your eating sessions during the day leads to less appetite stimulation.
- Meals that contain fat, protein, and fiber digest slowly and stabilize blood sugar, helping to control hunger between meals.
- Fasting periods give your body rest from the demanding job of digesting food, freeing up resources needed for cleanup and repair.
- Eating enough to stave off hunger between meals reigns in temptation by keeping snacks out of mind.
Lose Weight by Eating MORE and Snacking LESS [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- How eating stimulates your appetite and affects your blood sugar.
- Why periods of fasting benefit your body.
- A simple challenge to help you avoid snacking.
How Less Snacking Aids Weight Loss
The scientific literature has not been able to come to a clear correlation between meal frequency and weight loss. In other words, we cannot conclusively say that when calories are controlled, eating three small meals with snacks in between is better or worse for weight loss than eating, say, twice in one day (1).
What is the point of even considering giving up snacking if the literature says that the weight loss results are a coin flip? Well, real life is not calorie-controlled, so there are four good reasons to limit snacking. Number one, eating makes you want to keep eating. Two, the foods you choose to eat make a big difference in blood sugar and insulin response. Three, there’s a lot of value in giving your body rest from the demands of digestion. And number four, there’s less temptation and less need for willpower when snacking is a low priority.
Let’s look at each of these factors, discuss how they can help you lose weight, and we’ll end with a one-week challenge that will motivate you to give this a try.
Eating Makes You Want to Eat
Many things stimulate your appetite. The simple act of eating is one of them. In other words, eating makes you want to keep eating, making it easy to turn a small snack into a large one filled with unneeded calories.
If you follow me, you’ve likely heard me say that “none is easier than some.” We can apply that principle here. The easiest way to avoid unneeded calories is to eat “no snacks” because “some” stimulates your appetite.
Of course, to do that, you need to eat more at mealtimes so you have enough fuel to make it to your next meal. Think of mealtime as filling up your gas tank. When you have a full tank of gas, you don’t have to go back to the gas station for quite a while. Likewise, when your stomach is full, you don’t need to eat again until your next meal.
Blood Sugar Stability
It’s good to understand that filling up at mealtime is not simply reaching a calorie level. The foods you choose to eat make a big difference in your blood sugar and insulin response, and that makes a big difference in how hungry you feel between meals and how your body stores fat.
You want to shoot for a stable blood sugar level throughout the day that gently rises and falls following a meal. The best food choices for blood sugar stability contain fat and protein. These include animal products like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and full-fat dairy foods like cheese.
When choosing plant-based foods, starch, sugar, and fiber content are three factors that impact your blood sugar response. For the most stability, choose non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits and ensure they are whole foods.
When plant foods are refined, turning them into cereal, crackers, and processed veggie chips, the first thing to be stripped away is fiber. With no fiber to slow digestion, your blood sugar and insulin spike, driving hunger and fat storage.
Low-starch and low-sugar plant foods naturally fit into a low-carb diet and include things like salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, avocados, and berries. Raw nuts and seeds are also great add-ins for meals, adding hunger-satisfying protein and fat and a satisfying crunchy texture. If you’d like a full list of foods that stabilize blood sugar, I provide a list in my blog post titled, What Can You Eat on a Low-Carb Diet?.
To give you an example of how to fill up on blood sugar-stabilizing foods throughout the day, start your day with a hearty omelet, have a large salad at lunch topped with chicken, and have a meat or fish entree with cooked vegetables for dinner. In between meals, avoid eating to give your system some well-deserved rest.
Rest from Digestion
A benefit of eating only at mealtimes is that it creates fasting periods that give your body rest from the demanding job of digesting food. This frees up resources that your body can use for cleanup and repair.
This is possible because when you have food in your stomach, many resources get diverted to the digestive tract to deal with the nutrients—digestion is an energy-demanding process.
When you fast, those resources are freed up, allowing important repair processes to take place that lower your risk of certain diseases, boost your brain function, delay aging, and aid weight loss (2).
Snacks are Temptations
Another reason to make the shift to eating more at meals and avoiding snacks is that it removes temptation. When you decide not to snack, you stop entertaining possible snack ideas, such as “I wonder if I could have a few thin crackers with my cheese?” And avoid sabotaging thoughts like “A couple of small chocolates can’t hurt.”
Part of controlling the temptation is not allowing your brain to go there. When you intentionally give up snacking, it stops stray thoughts from gathering energy, saves your sanity, and avoids the need for willpower.
The No-Snacking Challenge
By eating more at meals and snacking less, you gain control over your appetite, blood sugar, and insulin levels. While at the same time, give your digestive system a rest, and reign in temptation. But at this point, it’s only theory. I want you to see how well this can work in your life by presenting you with a one-week, no-snacking challenge.
The goal and rules are simple: For one week, you will fill up at mealtimes and avoid snacking between meals.
1. You can choose to eat two or three meals per day.
2. Eat whole foods as much as possible, avoiding boxed or fast food meals.
3. Keep it simple. Think eggs in the morning, a big salad at lunch, and protein with non-starchy vegetables at dinner. That pattern gives you the fat, protein, fiber, and nutrients your body needs to slow digestion and control hunger.
Calorie needs vary from person to person, and a big part of finding your calorie range is discovered through experimentation. So use this week to learn what your body needs.
Remember, this is a challenge, so perfection is not expected. You will have times when you under-fed yourself, making the wait until your next meal challenging. Whether you give in and snack or push through, you did great because you learned by doing. There is no substitution for that knowledge.
Okay. There it is. Just one week. You get 52 of them this year. If you’re like me and over 50, you’ve had 2,600 weeks. I’m just asking for one. If you blow it on day three and have a snack, don’t give up on the day. Stop yourself, and get right back on track with your next meal.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Schwingshackl, Lukas, et al. “Impact of meal frequency on anthropometric outcomes: a systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Advances in Nutrition 11.5 (2020): 1108-1122.
(2) Panda, Satchidananda. “Circadian physiology of metabolism.” Science 354.6315 (2016): 1008-1015.