I see the logic in some arguments to snack. Eat every few hours, and your energy will never get low. But breaking down food for digestion requires a great deal of energy. Constant snacking can make the cycle worse. Unless you have blood sugar issues or are working out like crazy (expending lots of energy) you should be able to go between meals without feeling hungry.
If you do feel you are hungry between meals, you should ask yourself if you’re hungry or bored. The marketing departments of our food companies have spent loads of money to tell you that you need to snack, to consume more, and to buy their products. But I’m here to say “Don’t eat unless you’re hungry”!
I have clients who have NO IDEA what hunger feels like because they are constantly snacking. Your body is designed to tell you when you are hungry. Let your kids learn to listen to their bodies. It is really an important skill to learn. Ignoring your body’s signals for hunger and just stuffing your face whenever you feel you need a treat or a reward can lead to some weight issues down the road. It can also mess with your ability to digest food properly.
Are you bloated and gassy? Snacking could be to blame! When I was in school I had a teacher use a washing machine analogy and it changed the way I eat. Your stomach is like a washing machine, designed to break down your food before it goes into your intestines. Your stomach along with stomach acid and other digestive enzymes is supposed to break down food so that your intestines can absorb all the health-promoting nutrients we just ate. Once the food is broken down it sends a signal to a valve at the bottom of your stomach to open. Once this value opens the digested food empties into your small intestine to begin the next step of digestion. The step from chewing your food, to the valve opening and emptying can be quick or it can take hours depending on what you’ve eaten.
Think of the washing machine. Half way through the cycle you throw in another bunch of dirty clothes. It should start over again to get those new clothes clean. If it doesn’t start over those new clothes will not be clean when the washer goes to the next step.
If your stomach is half way through breaking down your food and you add new undigested food into it, the new food can’t be properly broken down. You are creating an environment where your stomach might not be able to work properly and undigested food might get into your small intestine which can cause gas and bloating. Even more concerning is it might create problems with candida and yeast overgrowth. If food isn’t broken down in your stomach with all the acids and digestive enzymes you will not be able to absorb the nutrients properly. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of money on food, and I want to get everything I can from it!
If you’re truly hungry between meals, then absolutely eat a snack. But this scheduled snack stuff is not healthy.
If my daughter comes to me and says she’s hungry between meals, I offer her an apple with some nut butter. If she’s truly hungry, she will take it. If she’s bored and not actually hungry, she won’t. If you snack, try to include some kind of protein with it. Protein will help ward off hunger longer than a simple piece of fruit.