Snacks, blood sugar and weight loss.
What do they all have in common?
Read on to see!
Personal Story: in my teens and 20's, I was infamous for my wonky blood sugar.
I would get really hangry, shaky, weak and bitchy. (Dave Asprey used a great term: "hypoglybitchy" to describe this state of being. )
My friends always joked that I needed constant snacks because "Melanie is always hungry."
I DID keep a stash of snacks around, per their suggestion. I basically constantly ate in order to feel better, so I didn't have a "blood sugar crash."
Truth bomb: I didn't know then what I know now; being "hangry" was a sign that I had unbalanced blood sugar levels and I had the power to change how I felt by choosing what foods I put in my mouth.
When I FINALLY started limiting my carbs and went for higher protein, fat and fiber content in my meals, my entire metabolism changed for the better!
I went from a girl who ate every few hours, to a girl who could fast for sometimes 16 hours!
Eating this way resulted in me feeling better, being less angry and argumentative., and able to more easily manage my weight without hours of crazy cardio! Woo hoo!
Why care about blood sugar?
Blood sugar imbalance can lead to weight gain
Extreme fluctuating blood sugar levels can change our mood, energy and ability to think clearly
Blood sugar dysregulation, left unchecked, can lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) and diabetes.
Insulin resistance can be a contributing factor to cancer, Alzheimer's and heart disease
My philosophy on snacking: I am not a fan of snacking for metabolic reasons.
Yet, we live in the real world. I don’t think any of us are immune to needing the occasional in-between-meal snack. And I don't want to instill guilt in anyone who incorporates snacks based on their needs.
But in general, we are too reliant on constantly feeding our bodies with calories.
TRUTH BOMB: If you're trying to improve metabolically and perhaps lose weight, snacking can be a hindrance. And the wrong snack can send your blood sugar levels through the roof!
Then what follows is the crash and burn: fatigue, cravings and weight gain. Benefits to NOT snacking:
Better for digestive health, your system needs a break
Gives the gut time to heal
Better for metabolism (as long as meals are balanced and well designed)
You’ll eat fewer overall calories in a day (as long as you don't overeat at meals)
Better for blood sugar control (as long as you eat well at each meal)
Overall, better for weight maintenance and weight loss
In fact, if you are hungry 2 hours after a meal, you did not eat enough satiating food during your meal.
FOOD GOAL: to choose high quality foods that give us the most nutrient variety, nutrient density and high satiety for the lowest amount of calories in order to have good, stable energy levels.
Read that again ^^
Satiety = Feel pleasantly full. Satisfied. Not hungry or overstuffed/bloated.
So what are the best macronutrients to make us adequately satiated?
2. Fiber from non-starchy veggies
3. Fat and carbs
Note that protein is the NUMBER 1 food for satiety!
Contrary to popular thought, fat is NOT the key nutrient for making us feel full.
So, keto addicts listen up, I am not always a fan of fat bombs snacks (snacks made almost entirely out of fat) and believe that adding in some protein for a snack is better.
Personal fat snack story: Although I do love an occasional fat or keto-based snack, I gained 5 lbs. in a few months when I added in homemade fat bombs daily to my diet! After those few months, I switched to either not snacking at all or having a low-calorie protein snack. It was a game changer and my weight went down again.
Good Reasons to snack: because we are all human!
Maybe you have a later dinner date and need a snack to “make it” until later.
Maybe you’re a stressed-out busy mom who doesn’t always have the time to eat a decent meal
Maybe you are trying to improve your diet, snack less and get more metabolically flexible, but you are just not there yet.
Maybe you eat dinner super early but wake up at 2am hungry. You need a light snack before bed. I get it. We can’t always avoid snacking. So, let’s talk about some healthy snack habits!
Healthy Sacking Tips:
Portion out your snacks. Make sure you are not indeed eating a fourth “meal.” If you are trying to lose weight, calories in and calories out matter.
PFF is your BFF: Protein Fat and Fiber are the key ingredients to healthy meals, and I think it should apply to snacks as well. I would ALWAYS make sure your snack has a protein component for blood sugar control.
Take your time and enjoy: Just like with your meals, do not rush through snacking. You are trying to benefit your digestion as well as not overeat.
“Healthy” Snacks: My Take on some common snacks
Veggies and Dip
This might be bell peppers and cucumber dipped in hummus or carrots and celery dipped in guacamole.
Sounds healthy enough? Right?
Well yes and no.
Problem #1: No protein.
Yes, garbanzo beans have a bit of protein but are categorized as a starch. Hummus isn’t a bad option, but it isn’t ideal. (For example, per 100g: garbanzo beans have 8.9 grams protein when chicken has 27)
Solution: Add some protein: Paleo valley organic beef stick, boiled egg, leftover chicken, etc.
Problem #2: Avocado can be a lot of fat. Look, I LOVE avocado and eat a lot of it. But, if we are eating a snack and avocado is the main thing, just be aware of how much you are eating. And again, add protein.
Problem #3: If you buy store bought dips, it most likely is made from omega 6 toxic oils like canola, safflower, sunflower, soy, etc. Try to find dips made with avocado oil or olive oil.
Remember, I am not trying to demonize a particular food. I am just being real about a food’s likely effect on blood sugar. These foods aren't unhealthy at all, but I would argue they need a protein source for proper blood sugar regulation.
This is a HUGE category of snacks. The protein bar industry has blown up over the last decade. Below I list the pros and cons. Trial and error, personal preference and reading labels is really vital in this category! PROS
They are super convenient
They can provide a good ratio of protein, fat and fiber/carbs
They can stave off hunger without making you feel full
The sweeteners (especially sugar alcohols) and fiber type (like inulin/chicory) in bars can cause stomach upset and bloating
Even if a low glycemic sweetener is used, bars can increase your sweet tooth
They can be pretty high in calories
Some are made with inflammatory omega 6 veggie oils
Some are made with too high of sugar content (perfect food bars can have 19 grams of sugar in ONE bar!)
Some keto bars are high in fat, which increases your total calorie consumption in a day (which is an issue if you are trying to healthily lose weight)
Homemade Protein Balls
Protein balls come in different varieties with tons of recipes, but the basic recipe uses oats, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and ingredients like seeds.
PROS: You can control the ingredients and they are cheaper than bars!
CONS: often protein balls are actually more like little fat, carb and sugar bombs. I suggest adding protein powder to them, to make them more well-rounded.
Yogurt and Granola
This is a common snack that is often labeled “healthy” but can really be a sugar-filled dessert calorie bomb that can deplete you of energy. Again, it boils down to ingredients.
Dairy can be inflammatory or you can be dairy sensitive Solution: Get checked for dairy sensitivity, try a coconut milk yogurt alternative
Yogurt (dairy and dairy free) and granola can be full of sugar Solution: Read labels, get low sugar options. Also, high fat yogurt has less sugar often than low fat
Granola is full of carbs and oats can be damaging to the gut Solution: opt for a “keto” or nut-based granola, instead of grain based. Be cautious of calorie content still.
Could be too low in protein Solution: eat a smaller amount and add a pure protein source to your snack
I am a fan of fruit, to a point. Despite what people say about fruit having too many sugars, there are so many nutritional benefits to fruit, it should be strategically included in your diet!
With that said, checking your blood sugar levels when you eat fruit is something that I recommend. If you know you react to fruit, and feel the energy dip afterward, time to strategize your snacking habit.
Tips for snacking with fruit
- Try eating fruit with a little fat like almond butter
- Trying pairing fruit with a protein source
- Avoid pairing fruit with a starchy carb
Now, classic food combining principles say to eat fruit by itself, not with anything else. I personally combine fruit with protein for example, in my protein shake, but I try to not combine it with starchy carbs.
If you feel better eating fruit completely by itself, so be it. Just know that you may be hungrier later on.
My personal favorite go-to snacks
Paleo Valley grass fed organic beef sticks (either by themselves or with a raw carrot or cucumbers or an apple)
Soft boiled eggs (with a carrot, cucumber, piece of fruit)
Avocado chocolate pudding (this is a hearty snack that could be a meal)
My protein powder mixed with just water (otherwise it’s a meal)
I don’t snack
Avocado Chocolate Pudding Recipe ½ mashed avocado
1 tablespoon nut butter
1/ tablespoon cacao powder
1 scoop plain or vanilla collagen or favorite protein powder
Honey, monk fruit or stevia to taste
Splash of coconut or almond milk for consistency
Combine all ingredients but the nut milk, then add nut milk a little bit at a time, to reach desired consistency. Recommend eating only half of recipe if consuming as a snack. If your protein powder is sweetened, you may not need extra sweetener.
Final Thoughts on Snacking
Everybody is different in the way they handle foods. Notice how foods make you feel.
Your age, activity level, genetics, health issues and mindset all factor in
Try making sure you have protein with your snack.
Ultimately, you have to fuel your body with what is right FOR YOU.
Consider tracking your blood sugar sometimes, to get some unbiased data.
Consider you may be thirsty and dehydrated, not hungry
Hope this blog was helpful!
If you are ready to dial in your diet
and explore testing your hormones and gut health with me,
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