Nowadays it’s generally accepted to eat 3 main meals daily and have a few snacks between them. Some athletes and bodybuilders preach eating 5 meals per day, but is this rule of thumb beneficial for the average gym-goer who wants to burn some fat or make some gains?

The Right Type of Snacks

Indeed, snacks can be very helpful for getting your system enough micronutrients, like fiber by from fruits and vegetable snacks. People who struggle with vitamin dense foods during main meals can easily snack on these types of low calorie foods without overeating. A big summary of data from many studies (called a meta-analysis) showed that eating at least 3-5 serving of fruits and vegetables everyday reduced risk of death, especially from heart disease and stroke.  Therefore choosing high fiber and low energy density foods may not always contribute to weight gain. Some examples of what to go for are:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Carrots
  • Celery Sticks
  • Water melon slices
  • Berries

Keep in mind we mean whole foods and not juices or dried versions as these typically don’t make you feel as full as the whole food versions. The problem is, however, that most people don’t snack on the right types of foods.

We Eat More Often Today Compared to 30 Years Ago

Based on worldwide growing obesity numbers, we can assume that irrational snacking between meals can lead to overeating. Results from a 30 year long survey (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, NHANES) show that time we have 1 hour less time between meals today compared to 30 years ago. This is probably because food today is more available, both socially and commercially, and that we eat as a response to stress and boredom instead of eating when we feel hunger.

Add Food to Main Courses Where You Are in Control

Other studies report that the main reason why people overeat with snacks is due to not eating enough earlier during the day. Cutting meal sizes too much leads to lack of energy and hunger later in the day. Either way, your body will crave the calories, so you might as well choose to feed it nutrient dense foods rather than being left hungry surrounded by tons of unhealthy snacks. Eating bigger, more nutritious meals is therefore key to avoid snacking cravings!

Therefore, we suggest that overweight people start eating more complete mains meals, and only snacking on the types of foods listed above, to efficiently start their weight loss journey.

Sources (DOI):

  1. 10.1016/j.jada.2011.09.012
  2. 10.1136/bmj.g4490
  3. 10.3945/​jn.109.114918

Article by team EBT member Edvard Grisin, Medical Resident Candidate in Sports Medicine.

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