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The Case Against Snacking

Snacking has become a habit in our culture and it is contributing to unwanted weight gain.  How many times a day, including meals, does your child eat?  Most of the kids I see in my office are eating 6-7 times a day, sometimes a lot more frequently than that.

Snacking is a relatively new phenomenon.  It is only several decades old at this point.  Likely when your grandparents were kids, their eating patterns were a lot different than your child's eating patterns are today.  Ask your grandparents how they ate when they were kids. 

In the 1960’s-70’s, the majority of kids were eating about 3 times a day in total.  At that time, only 5-7% of U.S. children were had a weight that was considered "unhealthy" (BMI>30) (ref. 1).  In August 2020,  22.4% of children 2-19 years old were now in that same unhealthy weight range. (ref. 2). 

Of course, snacking is not the only issue contributing to the obesity epidemic we are experiencing.  But, in my mind, thehabit of snacking is strongly contributing to it.

The problem with snacking is two-fold:  

  • too many extra calories consumed 
  • too frequent elevations in insulin levels

When we snack between meals, we do not give our body the opportunity it needs to use up the previously consumed food from the last time we ate.  When we eat more fuel than our body needs, our body will store that extra fuel as fat.  Evolutionarily, our human bodies were designed to be able to go long periods of time between meals.  While awake today, we almost never let ourselves go more than 2-4 hours between eating.

Depending on what we choose to eat as a snack and especially if we choose foods that are designed exclusively for snacking (think pretzels, granola bars, cookies), when we eat, our insulin levels spike up.  

Insulin is a fat storage hormone and blocks the release of energy from our fat cells.  To lose weight, we need to create the conditions in which our fat cells are giving up their stored energy to be used as our body’s fuel source until we eat again.   

If we stop snacking, we don’t take in extra calories to add to the fat storage and we keep our insulin levels low for longer periods of time which allows the previously stored energy in our existing fat cells to be accessed and used up for fuel for the body.

Ask your grandparents how they survived in the 1950’s-1960’s before snacking was a thing.  My parents remember eating 3 meals a day that included proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates.  They don’t recall feeling terribly hungry between meals or having the feeling of always being hungry.  

So what to do if your child is truly hungry between meals?  Offer your child the same foods that you would at a healthy meal.  Proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates are the best choices.  Skip the processed snack foods, foods with added sugars and especially drinkable sugars. 

Snacking has been a huge money maker for a lot of food companies but it has been unfriendly to our health.  






If you are interested in working with me to change the trajectory of your child's life, 

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