Are you familiar with the old saying, “you are what you eat?” Many of us have experienced – in one way or another – how various foods, especially snacks, can make us feel after eating them.
Snacks, or food or drinks consumed in between traditional meals, commonly refer to processed, high-calorie items like chips, crackers, and cookies. Often, hunger is the primary driver behind snacking, however, factors like the social atmosphere and the time of day also can contribute. In fact, many people snack when enticing food options are present—even if they’re not necessarily hungry.
Here’s one definition of snacking: it “… means to eat or drink something between meals, regardless of whether the food is healthy.” According to a 2014 Nielsen report, 41% of North Americans surveyed said they ate snacks–instead of dinner–at least once a month. Their favorite snacks, stated the report, are potato chips, chocolate, and cheese.
Snacking: The Negative Health Effects
Food has both negative and positive effects depending upon what you consume, how much you consume and the length of time you consume it.
Have you ever experienced the energy “highs and lows” that result from eating too many high sugar foods like fast food, fancy coffee drinks, cookies or energy drinks? This is a great example of how what you eat impacts how you feel. It’s a classic example of a “sugar crash” and illustrates how various ways food can affect your emotions.
While what we eat has a major impact on how we feel, when we eat is also critical. In many cases, the low energy levels that we feel during a typical day are a direct result of a mediocre meal or snack timing. For instance, if you skip meals, this can contribute to mood swings by causing fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. Also, food restriction can lead to more significant emotional responses, poor concentration, spiked stress levels and a reduced sense of well-being.
And while nutrient deficiencies are rare, it’s crucial to understand the effect that specific deficiencies can have on your mood and emotions. For instance, thiamine (vitamin B1), found in legumes and fortified grains, is essential for maintaining energy supplies and managing nerve and muscle activity. If you are deficient in thiamine, you may experience irritability, weakness or even depression. (so chips, candy, and soda will not help in this regard).
The optimal way, rather, is to fuel your body is to space meals and snacks three to four hours apart and choose a healthy protein and carbohydrate source at each meal.
How the Mood-Food Cycle Works
Many people snack throughout the day in the form of emotional eating, or a way to suppress negative emotions, like sadness, stress, anger or even boredom. Often, the annoyances of daily life can prompt negative feelings that can lead to comfort eating. Triggers sometimes include health or financial problems, work conflicts or other stressors, relationship issues and more.
Though some individuals consume less during emotional distress, others often turn to impulsive or binge eating, rapidly consuming whatever is convenient or in the fridge. Moreover, emotions can become so connected to eating habits that many of us automatically reach for a snack or treat whenever we are stressed or upset without thinking about our actions.
Is Snacking Really as Bad as They Say?
Snacking can help many people prevent becoming voraciously hungry. It can also help keep hunger levels at bay, especially at times when meals are spaced further apart.
The key with snacking is to understand the importance of making healthy snack choices. To get the most out of snacking, I suggest:
- Controlling your amounts. It’s typically best to consume snacks that provide approximately 200 calories and at least 10 grams of protein, so you stay full longer.
- Being aware of how often. For starters, never skip meals, especially breakfast. If you’re active, you may prefer three snacks a day, while a more sedentary person may be OK with one snack. Ultimately, the number of snacks you eat should be based on your activity level and snack size. Also, strive to eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day instead of a few large meals.
- Knowing which snacks to avoid. While high-sugar or processed snacks might give you a quick energy jolt, you’ll likely feel hungrier one hour later. Try to eat more whole grains and fewer refined sugars. And drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
Of course, we all want that feeling of sustained energy and alertness throughout a typical day. It’s vital to realize that much of that energy and alertness comes as a direct result of eating a diet filled with nutrient-dense foods– lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
What Does This Mean for You?
Treats and unhealthy snacks are not tickets to long-term happiness or emotional well-being.
To make the most out of snacking, pay closer attention to how eating various healthy snacks and foods make you feel – and not just in the moment. Experiment with eating a “cleaner” diet for a few weeks by gradually eliminating processed foods and sugar, if possible. Some people also attempt to go dairy-free or grain-free, reporting that they feel better when they don’t have these ingredients in their diets.
My final advice: take the process one step at a time. See how you feel after making minor changes, then slowly introduce snack foods back into your diet, one at a time, and see how you feel.
To solve additional energy issues, some people use spiritual tools to clear away trauma, stress, history, lifestyle, work and other issues. At Burn Bright Today, we help you train your body to lose the dependency on negative energy as fuel and release the unlimited power that comes from a direct soul connection. I am here to facilitate your journey and help you with the first step to total wellness. Reach out today for my personal recommendations on a healthy diet!