Is Snacking Killing Your Diet?

Are snacks helping you lose weight or are they killing your diet? Do you really need so many snacks throughout the day? Find out whether your snacking habits are slowly killing your diet.

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Salty nuts, sweet granola bars, small bites of cheese, and smoothies are all common snacks you might choose when you are dieting. But are those snacks helping you lose weight or are they killing your diet? I love a good snack as much as the next person, but I learned very quickly that too much snacking led to very little weight loss. Find out whether your snacking habits are slowly killing your diet.

The Reasoning for Snacks

Many diet gurus and nutritionists recommend adding one, two, or even three snacks per day into your diet. For example, the Mayo Clinic website says, “Well-planned, healthy snacks can complement your weight-loss plan.”

I understand the reasoning behind the recommendation of snacking.

1. Reducing your calories to a weight loss level makes you hungry and snacking takes the edge off that hunger.

2. Good, healthy snacks can add nutrients to your diet.

3. Some studies have suggested that snacking can increase your metabolism slightly, which may help with weight loss.

Even though I understand the reasoning, the results of snacking can be disastrous for some dieters. I’ve had clients who just couldn’t understand why they weren’t losing weight. In examining what they were eating, the problem wasn’t their meal choices, portion sizes, or lack of exercise, but snacks.

The Numbers

Would you be surprised if I told you that a government survey found that men took in an average of 586 calories from snacks and women took in an average of 421 calories from snacks every single day? Even I was a little bit surprised at that number because that’s a lot of calories from snacks.

To further drive the problem with snacking home, the same survey found that the average person got almost 25 percent of their total intake from snacks and 17 percent of Americans ate 40 percent of their calories from snacks.

Let’s break that down:

If you are trying to eat a 1,200 calorie diet to lose weight and fall into the typical category of eating 25 percent of your calories from snacks, that’s 300 snack calories each day. Guess how much you have left for regular meals? 900 calories. That’s not much.

The Reality

Snacking is permissible and can help some people. Eating between meals can curb your appetite but the behavior can also add unnecessary calories to your day. So many calories that you might stall any weight loss or even gain weight.

I was one of those people who easily ate 40 percent of their diet in snacks. Many of my clients were too. It’s easy to do if your snacks are high in calories like chips, smoothies, cookies, or ice cream.

But it’s also easy to eat way too many calories from healthy snacks if you aren’t careful. Take a look at this list:

1/4 cup mixed nuts                                      203 calories

1 ounce cheddar cheese                              110 calories

4 Tablespoons hummus with 5 crackers   205 calories

Avocado                                                          227 calories

3/4 cup granola cereal                                 210 calories

Protein bar                                                    230 calories

Banana with peanut butter                         285 calories

Calorie source: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

The Solution

Here are three possible scenarios for successfully losing weight that involve snacking.

1) Snack only when you are really hungry and pick a single snack that has about 100 calories. It’s okay to not have a snack at all and just eat three healthy meals. Don’t automatically assume you need a snack. You might not.

2) Plan to have one snack a day. The key word is plan. If you are eating 1,200 calories, your snack should only have 80 to 100 calories to leave room for meals that will fill you up. So, snack on a piece of fruit or a large serving of vegetables.

3) Count your snacks as meals if you are snacking more than once a day. Instead of thinking you are having three meals and two or three snacks each day, think about each eating session as mealtime.  Because when you are eating five or six times a day, the calories add up fast.

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