A snack is any food, healthy or not that is eaten between meals. We reach for a snack because we are bored, hungry or if it is sitting right in front of us. Snacking is a comfort and emotional eating can be attached to snacking. It is common to snack when we are tired or stressed regardless of hunger. Just like sugary drinks, we are training our bodies to need to fill full all day. A sense of fullness throughout the day becomes comforting which causes us to crave snacks.
If you are eating balanced meals at mealtimes you shouldn’t need snacks between meals. You should eat every four hours to prevent hunger. If you have a snack, it should be a healthy snack such as an apple or celery so that you aren’t hungry but still have an appetite for dinner. This philosophy involves the Timing aspect of QQT and is important for maintaining a healthy diet.
Calories are the way we measure how much energy a particular food can produce. If you have dieted before, you are familiar with calorie counting. For children, I don’t recommend calorie counting because there are too many variables that make it difficult to measure how many calories a child actually needs. Instead, we should concentrate on the quality and quantity of the foods that we eat.
By just taking away a small amount of food from a child’s diet, we can make a significant difference in maintaining a healthy weight. For example, one cookie is 60 calories and could mean an increase in weight by half a pound each month which equals six pounds a year!
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), young Americans ingest an excess of 370 calories per day. Just by reducing empty calories found in many snack foods and fruit juices, weight loss will occur.
Another way to reduce the number of calories a child takes in is to feed your child healthy meals prepared at home. There is no way to ensure that a child is eating a healthy meal at school unless it is prepared at home. Many schools and afterschool programs serve foods loaded with hidden calories to keep children full and happy.
It takes a great amount of willpower not to snack. Remember, it all boils down to the quantity, quality and timing equation so that we don’t have the urge to snack. If we keep those words in mind healthy eating becomes much easier.
In my book, The Step Up Diet, I do recommend one healthy snack in the afternoon for children – not adults! I’ve included some healthy snack ideas and school lunch ideas in my book and on my blog.