“Take 2 snacks and call me in the morning… “ That’s the advice I give most often to my clients who are struggling to lose weight, despite eating very little. Skipping meals and restricting calories too much can have two major problems. The first is that most people tend to eat way too much later in the day, because they’re so hungry they can’t think straight enough to make healthy choices. If you’ve ever gone grocery shopping on an empty stomach, then you know what I’m talking about – your bill is significantly higher, and half the bags are torn open before they make it down the conveyor belt.
The second, and even bigger problem with skipping meals, or saving up all of your calories until the end of the day, is that it puts your body into “starvation mode”. Our bodies are built to survive long periods without food (as in famine), and when there is a span of 8-12 hours with no nourishment, the body’s metabolism automatically slows down to conserve what it has in storage. The slower your metabolism, the less calories you need just to maintain your weight- forget about losing. Eating small amounts every 3-4 hours is the best strategy to keep your metabolism running the way it should, and that means small meals with snacks in between.
I recommend snacks be about 200 calories, and include at least three food groups –a whole grain for energy, a protein to fill and hold you, and a fruit or vegetable to pump you with some vitamins and antioxidants.
Try these snacks on for size…
Slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter and sliced strawberries
Microwave a whole-wheat tortilla with fat free refried beans, salsa and shredded cheese
Stuff half of a whole grain pita with egg salad, and serve carrots, red pepper and cucumber slices on the side
Leftovers – ½ cup brown rice or quinoa, with chicken and veggies