No such thing as a healthy snack

At a recent event, an acquaintance approached me. She was excited about healthy eating and was trying to lose weight. He said, “Instead of junk food as a snack, I’ve started eating apples as a snack. That’s good, right?” Here’s what I told her (in a really nice way).

There is no such thing as a healthy snack. Stop snacking. That means apples, apple pie, apple juice and Apple Jacks cereal. That means any food or drink that has calories.

Key principles
The single most important predictor of weight gain isn’t how MUCH you eat, but how OFTEN you eat.

Therefore, the most important eating skill to master is WHEN to eat. Babies eat anytime. Adults eat two or three meals per day, preferably on a regular schedule.

Snacking is not normal behavior. Humans are not grazing animals. Our digestive and hormone systems are designed to have food-free intervals. We are designed to eat a meal, stop eating, and eat another meal sometime in the future.

The problem
Since the beginning, for most humans, food has been relatively scarce and often needed preparation before eating. In the modern world, there are 24/7 convenience stores on many street corners, vending machines in many buildings, and pantries that can store years worth of food that will not spoil. Often we can snack without leaving the couch.

Furthermore, culture no longer restrains us. It is socially acceptable to eat anytime and anywhere. As a result, many of us are eating all the time.

Snacking is a behavior and one of the habits to stop to regain control of our weight-regulating mechanism. When the body eats food, or sometimes merely sees or smells food, the body secretes insulin, which pushes the body into fat storage mode. Frequent eaters always have insulin circulating around. This insulin causes all the cells but fat cells to become insulin resistant. Excessive insulin also blocks fat cells from releasing fat when it is needed for fuel.

The solution
One of the common traits of skillful, competent eaters is that they all eat meals and very few eat snacks. The solution is simple. It may not be easy, but it is simple:

  • Eat 2 or 3 meals daily
  • Preferably on a regular schedule
  • And don’t eat at any other time. Dont’ snack!

My forthcoming book Evolutionary Eating explains this in detail and offers practical steps.

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