By Sarah-Jane Bedwell, SELF magazine
You probably already know that snacking can be an important part of any healthy diet, but there are some times that are even more important than others to grab a snack. Here's my list of the top times you should snack and the one interesting time you should skip it.
You should snack...anytime you are going more than 4 hours between meals. Four hours is about the maximum amount of time you should have between meals. If you go longer than that, your metabolism will slow down, your blood sugar will drop, and by the time you finally do eat, you will be so ravenous that it will be hard to make good choices and you will be at risk of overeating. So make sure that you always have a healthy snack on hand for times when meal times get delayed unexpectedly.
Related: 21 Good-For-You Snacks
You should snack...after any intense workout lasting for a hour or more. It's important to replace your energy stores with carbohydrate and rebuild your muscle with protein after a long, intense workout. However, if your workout is less intense or less than 1 hour long, you probably don't need an additional snack, unless of course it's going to be several hours until your next meal (see number one, above).
You should snack...before bed. Yep! I said it- you can have a bedtime snack! Contrary to popular belief, eating a small snack before bed won't "turn straight into fat." In fact, if it's been several hours since dinner, having a small snack before bed can help you sleep better! But what you choose for that snack is super important!
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You should snack...before going out to eat. When clients tell me that they have trouble making healthy choices and eating correct portions when they go out, I suggest that they eat a small snack before dining out. This ensures that they are not so hungry when they get there that they make an impulsive decision when ordering or overeat. A small snack before going out also means you can skip the calorie-laden appetizers that can be really tempting if you are starving when you arrive at the restaurant.
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Last, but not least, one time you may not want to snack is.... mid-morning. SELF reported in the March issue's "Smart Eating Flash" that a recent study from The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that dieters who noshed between breakfast and lunch tended to snack later in the day, too. And the calories added up. Morning snackers lost 4% less weight in a year than did those who skipped the mid-morning snack. If you have a balanced and filling breakfast that includes a whole grain carbohydrate, lean protein or low-fat dairy serving, some healthy fat, and a fruit or veggie and eat lunch within 4 hours later, you shouldn't need a mid-morning snack.