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Is Snacking Doing You Dirty?

I can confidently say that this may be one of my most controversial articles I will have written for Influential Gentleman. Snacking is a crowd favorite. It’s a global pastime. It’s a comforting hobby. Snacking has more or less become a common ground between 99.9% of the human race. But snacking has some serious consequences when it comes to achieving your ideal physique and having a healthy diet. Now if you don’t care about those two things at all, then that’s fine. You can close this page down and get on with your day. However if you’re reading this in the first place the odds are that you subscribe to some of the ideologies of this site. I mean, the whole mission of Influential Gentleman is to help us all to become the best version of ourselves. Unfortunately, as much as it pains me to say and will pain you to read: snacking often gets in the way of  these goals.

When you watch shows about weight loss you’ll often find that the subjects trying to lose weight don’t understand why they aren’t losing weight. They’ll go to their trainers and tell them that all they have been eating for weeks are salads, chicken and rice, or other staple low calorie meals. What they often don’t take into account are the snacks they’re consuming in between their meals. At my office, which is a place I used to go to before Covid forced me to go completely mobile for almost 10 months now, I watched a man eat light meals every day for lunch. Salads, plain chicken, sometimes even just a protein shake. Now based off of that knowledge I can assume he was attempting to lose weight. No one has that small calorie and boring of a lunch every day if they aren’t at least conscious of eating healthy. However, and this is not an exaggeration whatsoever, the guy was eating a minimum of 8 bags of chips per day. A quick search will tell you that on average a bag of chips has 160 calories (we’re talking the snack size bags obviously if you’re eating a whole bag of chips from the grocery store multiple times a day that’s a different problem). So 8 x 160 is 1,280 calories!

If you look on most food labels you’ll see that the percentages given are “based on a 2,000 calorie diet”. So if that was the case in this situation my work colleague is eating well over half of his daily calories in bags of chips. And it’s not just about the calories as a whole, it’s about what type of calories are being consumed here and the macro and micro nutrient breakdown. A good diet has a healthy balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Chips, and most snacks in general, are high carb and/or high fat. They also are loaded with sodium and other unhealthy ingredients that your body will not thank you for, I promise you that.

What do I do?

So you’re telling me that I can’t eat any snacks?! Yes and no. I realize that a demand to cut out snacks entirely is not going to work for most people. However it absolutely is option 1, so let’s talk about why. If you absolutely cannot see a future without your snacks then skip down to “Snacking Right if You Have to Snack.” Option 1 is only for the very disciplined, and even now for me is something that I have to continue to discipline myself despite having established a lack of snacking as a pretty set-in-stone habit. But if you can cut out snacking, I promise you it will 100% give you results and is a surefire method to hitting nutritional goals.

If you’re still reading and haven’t skipped ahead, gold stars all around. Clearly you are serious enough about your health and achieving your ideal physique to at least entertain the idea of eliminating snacking. So let me get down to business and tell you why and how to do it.

We talked about some of the “why” above but let’s add some more depth.

Snacking adds calories
You may think you’re on your way to hitting goals by eating your salads for lunch and healthy meat/vegetable combos for dinner, but if you’re constantly snacking on things like chips, cheeses, nuts, or really anything, you’re adding calories that you may forget to track throughout the day. This often leads to diet frustration because while we think we should be hitting goals, we aren’t seeing any progress.

Snacking leads to inconsistency
This is a big one. One of the reasons that I’m able to be so disciplined with my caloric intake is that I eat similar meal sizes at the same times of day, every day. A normal day for me consists of fasting until 12:30, consuming a big lunch, then eating another large meal after my evening workout. If I’m not fasting I’m eating a light breakfast, then a big lunch and big dinner.
Snacking would  completely mess with my routine, and often messes with the routines of those that can’t help but to partake in it. Let’s say you’ve woken up on a Saturday and had a nice healthy breakfast. Two eggs, some toast, and a black coffee. It may not be your favorite but you’re trying to eat well and you know that’s a solid start. Now 11:30 you’re on the couch watching some Mandalorian or Stranger Things or whatever, and you decide to get up and dig into some low fat chips and hummus. This is a relatively healthy snack so you feel good about it. You’re into the show though so you eat a little more than you want. Now it’s 3 o’clock and you realize you haven’t had lunch. “Well it’s close to dinner already so I might as well just have something light.” Instead of the chicken and rice you had planned on you decide to have another light snack. So instead of 40 grams of protein and rice you’re probably going to have a high-sodium, high-fat option that does not carry the same weight.
You see where I’m going here? Snacking not only steals calories from meals, usually replacing healthier options with unhealthy ones, but also throws off your eating schedule. When you have an inconsistent schedule you’re way more likely to indulge or binge, which simply increases and compounds inconsistency. At the end of the day, a healthy lifestyle is one of discipline and consistency. Snacking makes this difficult.

Cut them out

The easiest way to eat healthier in regards to snacks is simply to not snack. Focus on packing your meals with the proper nutrients and calories that give you the best daily diet. Eat consistent meals at consistent times. This doesn’t mean “eat the same thing every day.” For some people that is what they need to stay on track. But consistent meals at consistent times really looks more like this:

Breakfast: something light in the 8-10 am window. A couple eggs and some bacon. Or maybe avocado toast. Or possibly two pancakes with sausage. You don’t have to drink egg whites or only have one strip of bacon. Just don’t go crazy here.

Lunch: a solid meal in the 12 -2 pm timeframe. Turkey and cheese sandwich with fruit on the side. Or maybe a salad loaded with chicken, almonds, mandarin oranges, and a nice balsamic dressing. Or possibly a nice pasta dish and some veggies on the side. Decent amount of calories (definitely more than breakfast), well-rounded with some fruits or vegetables, and a good balance of fat, protein, and carbs.

Dinner: a nice meal to end the day’s eating in the 6-8 pm time slot. Spaghetti and meatballs with steamed broccoli. Or maybe Steak and potatoes with asparagus. Or possibly tacos. Again, there’s room for plenty of variety while still getting a solid protein-focused meal.

If you can follow an eating schedule that focuses on 2 to 3 solid meals per day without snacking, as I continue to reiterate, you will 100% have a leg up on those that can’t stop snacking. You will have consistent eating habits and will find it much easier to eat healthy. Add counting calories and intermittent fasting and you can take it to the next level, but that’s a conversation for another time. The key is consistency. Cut out snacks, eat consistent meals. That simple.

Snacking Right if You Have to Snack

For those of you who skipped down to this section, welcome! For those that stuck with me through the no snacking phase, here is where you can see some other options. Obviously there is a way to snack right. The majority of the world will continue to snack and many people can clearly make it work and still achieve the physique they want and achieve a healthy body. In my opinion there are three ways  to do this, some of which can be combined.

Snack smart
Snacking smart has two parts: snacking healthy and snacking with intention. Snacking healthy is obvious. Don’t eat crap. Doritos dipped in ranch dressing is never going to help you reach your goals. But organic low fat chips (they exist!) dipped in some hummus might. Candy will not help your reach your goals. But Greek yogurt might. Choose healthier options. If snacking is something you do in order to fill your appetite between meal times, eat healthy options. My suggestion here is to get a protein powder. There are healthy and great tasting options. Whey protein, vegan protein, whatever you want. These are also great as meal replacements because they are very filling, and will help you not overeat or over-snack!

Snacking with intention is the trickier of the two parts. This means acknowledging that every snack you eat is taking away calories from your actual meals. If you have a snack between lunch and dinner, make sure that dinner is a little lighter. That way instead of consuming 150 extra calories during the day, you’re actually just moving those 150 calories from a meal to a snack. Pretty tricky, right? Take that a step further. If you’re eating a snack, check the calories and macros (fat, protein, carbs). If it’s primarily fat and carbs, make sure fat and carbs is what you’re removing from your next meal. Maybe don’t sprinkle cheese on your salad and have a couple less croutons. Now not only are you keeping the calories the same, but you’re keeping the caloric value the same as well.

Snack at Meal Times
This may seem like it makes no sense, but it really depends on how you define what a snack is. If you look at a snack as something you eat in between meals then yes there is definite confusion in what I’m trying to convey here. Instead, start looking at snacks as snack foods. Chips are a snack. Beef jerky is a snack. Yogurt is a snack. Find the snack you like and “can’t live without,” and incorporate it into your meals. Chips and hummus can be eaten during lunch. Yogurt can be consumed during dinner. This is what I find to be the best solution. This way you aren’t spoiling your appetite and you still get to enjoy the foods you like.

Like we discussed above in “snacking smart,” you need to make sure once again you’re adjusting your meals accordingly. If you’re trying to eat a certain amount of fat, protein, and carbs per day, make sure that your meals still meet those quotas. You don’t want to start having fats and carbs increased due to your need for snacks.

Snack on a Cheat Day
A cheat day is still a tried and true method in dieting. It’s a great way to have something to really look forward to and avoid getting frustrated with your diet. I never recommend just binging thousands of calories on a Saturday and calling that a cheat day, and perhaps I’ll need to write an article in the future about doing a cheat day correctly. But for now, let’s stay focused. If you love your snacks and want to keep having them, pick one day a week to be your “snack day.”

Having a day to snack freely should help you focus your schedule a bit and ignore your cravings on other days of the week. You can indulge on your favorite treats on this one day, and stick to your healthy eating the rest of the week. I find that if you can do this for 6 weeks you’ll notice that you will snack less and less in general; another benefit of doing cheat days properly.

You can do it!

Cutting out snacking, or even switching your habits to snacking in a better way, is daunting for a lot of people. I have no illusions about that. Like I said, snacking has become a staple for the majority of individuals, so it’s not something that you can simply switch on and off just like that. But at Influential Gentleman we believe in all of your potential to become the best versions of yourselves, and sometimes that requires a little bit of sacrifice here and there. Here, it just means snacking differently at a minimum, and cutting out snacking at a maximum. Neither of these are going to spiral you into a dark place. It will certainly have an adjustment period, but really it just takes a little discipline to give your body the potential to be much healthier long term.

Feel free to reach out with questions. Snacking is a science and if you want any other suggestions on how to do it properly, maybe even some specific advice or snack ideas, we’re ready and able to help out.

Remember, we are far more capable than we often give ourselves credit for. You can do this!

Good luck.

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