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Calorie Count Blog

The Best Time NOT to Snack


By +Carolyn Richardson on Nov 30, 2011 10:00 AM in Dieting & You

If you’re an American, chances are you have at least one snack a day. While snacking isn’t a bad thing, new research is showing when you snack may have a bearing on how much weight you lose. Particularly, researchers at the Fred Huntchinson Cancer Research Center have found mid-morning snacks may be detrimental to weight loss.

The Study

Published in the December issue of the American Dietetic Association, the study assessed the eating behaviors of 123 postmenopausal women who were overweight or obese. While those who ate a mid-morning snack after eating a healthy breakfast lost 7 percent of their body weight, those who skipped a snack until after lunch, lost 11 percent.  Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and member of the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division and director of its Prevention Center, had this to say about the results: “We think this finding may not relate necessarily to the time of day one snacks, but rather to the short interval between breakfast and lunch. Mid-morning snacking therefore might be a reflection of recreational or mindless eating habits rather than eating to satisfy true hunger.”

Screen Time Blurs Mealtime

A separate study found that participants who played a game of solitaire on the computer while eating lunch ate twice as many post-lunch snacks as did undistracted eaters.  This makes the case for eating mindfully. Even if you’re unable to leave work to eat, don’t sit at your computer screen. If at home, turn off the television and eat at your dining table. Your stomach and brain will thank you for it.  The study also found computer players had less memory of what they ate at lunch, and felt less full following the meal. 

Snacks with Too Many Calories

Weight loss efforts may also be hampered by eating too much at snack time. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which provides information on the health and nutritional status of Americans, found that Americans’ snacking now accounts for the equivalent of a 4th meal or around 580 calories a day. Tiernan suggests incorporating snacks that are no more than 200 calories per serving. A good rule of thumb is to have a snack that’s only about 10 percent of your total daily caloric intake. If you eat a bigger snack, consider cutting calories from the meal before and after that snack.

The Best Snacks

Tiernan’s study also found those who had afternoon snacks ate more fruits and vegetables than those who skipped a snack between lunch and dinner. To bridge the gap between meals, eat fibrous and protein-rich foods to stay satiated. Tiernan suggests “low-fat yogurt, string cheese, or a small handful of nuts; non-starchy vegetables; fresh fruits; whole-grain crackers; and non-calorie beverages such as water, coffee and tea.”

Bottom Line

Functional snacks stave off hunger when there is a significant amount of time between meals. Snacking for any other reason may hinder your weight loss goals. Tiernan adds, “Our study suggests that snacking may actually help with weight loss if not done too close to another meal.” Posit snacks at the midpoint of your longest stretch between meals. Turn off the TV, smartphone, or computer, and leave room for your next meal.


Your thoughts...

Do you schedule your snacks and if so, when do you have them each day?



Comments


I don't schedule a snack but I always keep a fiber bar or piece of fruit at work for the times when hunger becomes serious. Sometimes it's morning, but usually in the afternoon. There are many days when I don't need to snack at all. I often go for coffee when I just need a little something to hold me until dinner.



Hmmmm.  Very good information! I snack when I am hungry.  The article makes sense though since we usually have a longer time of 'no eating' between lunch hour and dinner time.  Since I am recording my daily food intake/exercise, I am going to be mindful of when I snack--after all I want to be 42 and fabulous.   (Also watching how much I eat when I snack).  I am not very good at the 5 mini meals so I try to stick to the 3 meals a day and a snack if needed.  I have found that if I ate a more protein filled lunch like tuna, I am usually satisfied until 4:30-5p.m.



Wow....those snack recommendations kind of suck.  Yogurt?  Fruit?  TEA???  If I'm snacking because I'm hungry, what good is TEA going to do me?  Fruit doesn't help much either--it actually makes me hungrier.  The best strategy, I find, is to just make my lunch healthy and well-balanced and literally take 4 hours to eat it.  If I can't have peanut butter crackers or gourmet cheese or ice cream for a snack, then I don't want a snack at all! 



I resently started to eat granola bars, or what you cal them, that carry about 100 cal pr. bar. If I don't have time for breakfast I eat one and if there is too long between meals I eat one. I was loosing the sight of my goal but this got me back on track. I also don't eat as much at night if I remember not to skip meals during the day. If I get too hungry sometime during the day I tend to eat to much after I come home :0)



I snack on hard boiled eggs in mid morning and have an orange or piece of fruit between lunch and dinner.  This keeps me going so I am not starved.  I eat a light breakfast of cottage cheese and fruit.



This is a really valuable article and thread of comments!  I'm wondering if my mid-morning stnacks have sabotaged my losing weight faster.  I'll try eating a more substantial, healthy breakfast, skipping the mid-morning snack, and having a snack in the afternoon, and see if that helps!  For the number of calories I've been eating, I think I should have lost weight faster than I've been doing.  This just might be an eye-opening breakthrough!  Thanks, everyone, too, for your comments and input!



The research I've been doing has revealed strong favor towards 5-6 small meals per day rather than 3 large ones with snacks.  Each small meal is made up of proper carb/fat/protein ratio (as much as possible).  Each meal is between 200-300 calories depending on the amount of calories needed and burned in exercise. Seems like the snack is a good idea if it follows this plan - but not if the regular meal is too high in calories and the snack pushes us over our daily limit for weight loss or maintenance.



I am wheel chair bound, born with spina bifida,45 surgeries, so my movements are limited, have lost 25lbs on my own prior to finding calorie count, want to lose another 50+ lbs..so anyone with similiar conditions, and has had sucess any advise would be great



I ALWAYS slice my fruit, usually disk-wise instead of orange-section-shaped, idk. It takes a long time to eat and I love them! Especially apples.



I try a slice of deli turkey rolled in a Romaine lettuce leaf.  It's fresh and crisp and satisfying!



Hmmm.. Maybe not snacking after breakfast will help me but I am not sure because I have a quick protien shake, go to the gym and when I get to work have a hard boiled egg and banana.

??



Original Post by: elizabeth45036

I am wheel chair bound, born with spina bifida,45 surgeries, so my movements are limited, have lost 25lbs on my own prior to finding calorie count, want to lose another 50+ lbs..so anyone with similiar conditions, and has had sucess any advise would be great


Elizabeth,

I have lost over 160lbs and need to lose hundreds more, so, because of my size I have been very limited in what kind of exercises I can do (just too hard on the joints).   I have lost all that weight, with zero exercise, unless you call walking exercise, but I can guarantee you that the walking was only a slight factor in my weight loss. The walking was excellent for me in other ways, so I will continue to do it (plus start exercising in other ways as my weight loss increases).  Basically, I am talking about a low carb diet.  I eat less than 30g of carbs a day and can typically lose 3-4lbs a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how well I limit my calories that week (above 1600 cals/day, I typically lose 0lbs/week).  I found out through research on why people get fat and once you know how, you will know how to reverse it.  Most people think a person gets fat by over-eating and being lazy.  Well, in reality, people get fat first, then become lazy and start over-eating.  That was hard for me to believe at first, but now I know it is true.  I will be glad to send you more info, if you want to hear it (send me a note).  Hopefully, I have peaked your interest, because I do like talking about this stuff.

Notice that all the "Best snacks" they recommend above are all low-carb.  There is a good reason for that.  They won't cause weight gain and are exactly the kinds of snacks I snack on.



That's the best call. Low carb snacks if you can find them without too much fat or sodium content.



Original Post by: elizabeth45036

I am wheel chair bound, born with spina bifida,45 surgeries, so my movements are limited, have lost 25lbs on my own prior to finding calorie count, want to lose another 50+ lbs..so anyone with similiar conditions, and has had sucess any advise would be great


Hi Elizabeth

I am also in a wheelchair and I started this weight loss journey in spring.  I eat a healthy balance of all four food groups according to that Canada Food Guide.  I don't drastically restrict any type of food.  My goal is to loose weight slowly and in a healthy manner.  So far I am down at least 3 clothing sizes.  Send me a message if you want to discuss the details.



Please post healthy but good snacks..besides the " fruit and nuts" regulars..i loved the turkey and romaine lettuce one...anymore?


Original Post by: klop735197007

Please post healthy but good snacks..besides the " fruit and nuts" regulars..i loved the turkey and romaine lettuce one...anymore?

tuna or salmon wrapped in nori,  RAW or Spirutine protein shake, baked sweet potato, Shirataki (50 cals a serving!), Vegan, organic low sodium vegeatble soup, Nayasoy light silken tofu- 150 calories a whole container- glass or hot mug Almond milk, Soy milk, Hemp milk



I always have a healty midafternoon snack around 4 PM. I think it is the the best change I have made on my daily meal plan since I have started watching my diet. I treat it almost like a light meal and I never skip it. It's usually between 150-250calories. I try to stay away from cookies and unhealty snacks..  I have either a small sandwich, or non-fat yogurt, or almonds&dried appricots, or granola bar. It's really helping me with my diet since it helps me to keep my dinner portions small and balances my blood sugar level. It gives me energy to do my workouts before dinner.



I work 3rd shift 4 nights a week. This really confuse me on what to eat and how to eat.  When I get off work in the morning I walk 2.5 miles then I do a workout video at home show and go to bed while my childeren are at school and my husband is at work.  The struggle is how to eat working 3rd shift.



I eliminated the need to "snack" by eating every 3 hrs. This maintains my metabolism and keeps me from getting hungry and maybe reaching for quick, but "junky" stuff. When you are always eating, you don't feel the need to reach for something worthless for the body. Having 5 small meals a day has helped me lose 124 lbs. I WILL eat at 9:00 p.m. before bed, but only an apple or 2 oz. of protein. This is just enough if I have hunger pains, but not enough to add fat to my butt!!!



I go to work at midday, and get only a couple of ten minute breaks, until 7 or 9 o'clock at night.  No chance to eat "dinner" at a decent time.  Eating smaller meals more often is great, but I just don't have time to prepare more than three good meals a day.

What's working for me is preparing a big, properly balanced "lunch", taking it to work with me and snacking on it during my breaks.   Then I eat a small dinner when I come home.



Commen Sense here people! If you can prepare 3 good meals a day, you can cut them in half and eat 6 times a day. I thought this is what I said, make sense?



When I snack, it's usually on something I would normally snack on, but only half the serving. Like if I were to get a mini bag of chips or crackers from the vending machine at work in the afternoon, I'll just eat half of it. And I used to have a snack at night a while after dinner, but I found that if I have a cup of coffee and one cookie, I'm good.

I don't snack on apples by themselves because they make me more hungry!! If I eat an apple, I eat it with a meal.



Original Post by: lasindia

The research I've been doing has revealed strong favor towards 5-6 small meals per day rather than 3 large ones with snacks.  Each small meal is made up of proper carb/fat/protein ratio (as much as possible).  Each meal is between 200-300 calories depending on the amount of calories needed and burned in exercise. Seems like the snack is a good idea if it follows this plan - but not if the regular meal is too high in calories and the snack pushes us over our daily limit for weight loss or maintenance.


I completely agree.  I have been eating this way for two years and it has totally worked for me.  In my world there is no difference between "snack" and meal.  They are all around 200-300 calories and I eat every few hours getting in my 5 meals a day.  Doing this keeps me from being super hungry and derailing my progress.  I always have 2 meals before lunch time, I call it breakfast and my 10 am snack but they are similar in calories and make up.



Every week I plan out all my meals and snacks and the times I'm going to eat them. My 3 main meals are around 400 cal and the snacks are around 100 or less.

7AM - Breakfast (protein shake, eggs, or paleo-style muffins); 10AM - Snack (usually berries or other low sugar fruits, or almond yogurt); 12:30PM - Lunch (usually leftovers from supper the previous night or a salad); 3:30PM - Snack (nuts or raw veggies); 7PM - Supper (some type of meat + veggies).

I also try to drink 80 oz of water per day, and this keeps my stomach feeling full and my skin looking nice Laughing



jnduffy...have you tried a little peanut butter with your apple?  I find the protein takes care of any hunger pains.  Just a thought

 



I work 12 hr shifts as a nurse 3-4 days a week. I tend to over eat if I do the 5-6 meals a day, especially pn my days off. I often eat out on those days with my hubby or girlfriends & then my calorie count is to high. My weight loss has stalled and I am going to try to eat more at breakfast--cottage cheese & fruit, then lunch at noon, a snack at 4PM (protein bar & skim milk) and an apple & light string cheese on the way home. That is for work days onmy days off I will do 3 meals a day with maybe a light snack in the afternoon &/or bedtime if needed.

Being 58 my metabolism is really slow. I am on vacation now & will try to be good & will put my plan into action when I get home. Need to get back to food logging & working out. Slack off just a bit & the weight loss stops or worse I gain.

Find the ideas in this article interesting & will see if they help.


Yes, I schedule my morning snacks - they are always at 10:30 am and include oatmeal with a high-grade soy protein powder, nuts like almonds or peanuts or a soy protein bar. Since I started doing this in March (along with some other nutritional changes), I have gone from an overweight BMI to a normal BMI.



I have been recomended the 5 to 6 small meals a day. I was tending to not eat enough during the day and overeating or binging at night. Generally, like someone mentioned I tend to keep them all around the same calorie intake. Sometimes Ill figure it out so I can have a bit more for dinner. I dont always have a midmorning snack, only if im hungry and im going to be eatting lunch later than normal. I dont think its really the fact of having a snack, but what people chose for snacks. Some people will have a snack that is the same amount of calories as a meal. This is also a problem when people are snacking just because and not because they are actually hungry.



I tend to plan my snacks and eat 3 or 4 a day depending on what my schedule will be.  A typical workday might be a protein drink in the morning just before I head out the door for the office 10 minutes away, and a mid-morning snack or soy yogurt.  If that is a bit late, then I take a late lunch from 1-2:00.  Another small snack during the PM - closer to 5 if I'm going to work out afterwards.  Otherwise, it might be dessert within an hour of lunch or anytime 2-3 hrs after eating that meal.  My job is very complex, stressful & busy so sometimes I'm lucky just to get time to eat lunch period.

Dinner depends again on when I get home, then either dessert or lately, more often is a before bedtime snack.  I find my sleep has improved; if I miss it then I wake during the night and at least drink a glass of warm soy milk.  If I awake and have no calories left then I try to make do with some hot green tea. 

Other snack foods during the day for me are nuts, hummus & a few crackers, or a hard boiled egg.  I do best if I stick to protein or protein complex carb combos.  On a bad day I will give in to my sweet tooth but try hard to keep sugar free candy in my desk rather than hit the chocolate candy bars.  A chocolate protein drink after lunch or some fruit for dessert right at the end of my lunch hour helps to hold off those downswings in blood sugar while my body is still digesting, especially when I've had some fresh salad greens along with my main entree at noon.  Maybe that's why for me, dinner /evening is no longer the worst time for me because I eat a well balanced meal each night.

If I do want to nibble while watching TV, I grab some nuts I keep near the recliner or ask hubby to make some popcorn and eat it plain.  I generally eat about 1550-1600 calories per day.



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