Focus on Fitness: Sometimes a snack is just what you need

By Gloria Schwartz

Snacking: So many of us do it. Snacking means eating food between regular meals. Snacking often gets a bad rap. Growing up, many of us were ingrained with the idea that snacking would ruin our appetite at meal time.

Some people eat three square meals and don’t feel the need to snack in between. Everyone has different nutritional needs and habits. The problem is when you’re snacking frequently and consuming more calories than you need, or if your snacks typically include unhealthy foods. The results of such habits can be unwanted weight gain or damaging effects on your health such as high blood pressure. Avoiding unnecessary evening snacking due to boredom or stress, especially during the winter months, can be a challenge.

A healthy snack containing some protein helps repair and strengthen your muscles after physical activity. Snacking on healthy foods is beneficial as it replenishes your energy and keeps you feeling satiated. If you feel voracious at most mealtimes, a modest snack between meals can prevent overeating. Snacking may also be important if you have certain health conditions. Your dietician may advise you to snack on certain foods between meals. If you’re underweight, have a medical condition or are undergoing treatment that makes it difficult to eat an adequate amount of food at one time, you may find it helpful to break up your daily nutritional requirements into several smaller meals and snacks. Snacking is a personal choice. There’s nothing to be ashamed about if you have unhealthy snacking habits; it may be something to consider modifying for the betterment of your long-term health.

Have you ever heard of an exercise snack? If getting in a 30- to 60-minute workout per day does not mesh with your schedule, you can do something physically active several times per day in shorter spurts; for example, a walk around the block, climbing stairs or a few exercises wherever you happen to be. These exercise snacks embedded throughout your day add up. Getting in five or 10 minutes a few times per day can help you meet your health and fitness goals. Just like with food, exercise snacking is not suited to everyone. Some people prefer to regularly exercise for a half-hour or hour; others do better with mini-portions of exercise. Whatever works for you is the best way to approach exercise.

The concept of snacking can also be applied to mindfulness. If your busy day doesn’t allow you to fit in a yoga or meditation class, you can destress your mind and body with a few minutes of peacefulness. Find a quiet space or zone out with headphones and some soothing music. Close your eyes, focus on your breathing and clear your mind of your mind-cluttering thoughts. Just a few minutes of this escapism and slowing down can leave you feeling refreshed.

When it comes to sleep, nothing beats a good night’s seven or eight hours of uninterrupted ZZZs. If you’re feeling tired during the day, you might benefit from a 20-minute sleep snack or nap. In our society, napping is usually thought of as something reserved for babies, sick people and the elderly, but everyone from teens to adults of all ages can benefit from a nap. Whether you nap on an as-needed basis or routinely, naps can improve your alertness and performance and reduce errors. Don’t be embarrassed if you take a nap. You’re in good company. Albert Einstein was a napper.

Creativity snacking is a strategy for fitting art, music or literature into your hectic life. All work and no play make John a dull boy so taking a few minutes to doodle, write, listen to music that you enjoy or to read a chapter in a good book can add something positive into what might otherwise be a humdrum day. Some hobbies and interests are very time-consuming – golf, for example. While putting a few balls on the office floor or in your living room may not be as satisfying as a round of golf outdoors, it might just whet your appetite, lift your mood and get you excited for your next game.

If your day-to-day life is replete with commitments, if you’re always running against the clock, or if time management is simply not your strong suit, you can still fit in a variety of activities and round out your healthy lifestyle by employing the concept of snacking.