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To Snack or Not to Snack?

Posted Jan 19 2011 4:54pm

This is going to sound ridiculous but I don’t know how to eat.  After spending too many years of going from one end of the eating spectrum to the other, I have lost all sense of what a ‘normal’ amount of food is.

I really love snacking.  Snacks keep my energy levels up and stop me feeling too hungry during the course of the day.  However, I also love big meals.  I like meals that fill the plate (or bowl) they are served on, or that are made up of lots of different bites and tastes.  Basically, I like a lot of food; I guess you could call me a volume eater?  This does not sit well with a snacking philosophy.  If I ate three big meals and my usual two snacks, it would equate to far too much food and I would feel stuffed.  But three small meals are mentally unsatisfying even if I know a snack is never far away.

Recently I have been experimenting with eating three bigger meals a day and no snacks but this just doesn’t work.  Although I find the meals filling and satisfying, I am still getting hungry between meals and find I am ravenous by the time it is finally time to eat.  My blood sugar levels also plummet resulting in me feeling faint and shaky.  So although I find the large meals satisfying for a while, the effect wears off despite the total calorific content of my food being adequate (I’m not counting but I do have a general idea of how many calories are in the foods I eat).  I have found that feeling very hungry between meals can lead to some very poor food choices.

After pondering what to do, I remembered reading something on Emily’s blog ( Daily Garnish ) about how she likes to eat.  Although I would never recommend trying to emulate someone else’s eating habits, I was interested to see what she had to say on the matter.  It is all very well looking at the food someone has posted on their blog but it can be hard to judge quantities, and there is usually little mention of how satisfying that person found the meal.  There were two interesting things that I took away from Emily’s post.  Firstly, I liked her idea of a traffic-light type system for determining how much of any one item to eat (reproduced below). 

  • Healthy and low calorie = eat your heart out
  • Healthy but high calorie = moderation 
  • Not healthy = don’t eat it <——side note: as I don’t think it is within my definition of healthy to exclude foods, I am going to change this to ‘eat moderately and knowingly’.
  • [ source ]

    Secondly, she mentioned Volumetrics.  The hook of Volumetrics is its focus on satiety, the feeling of fullness. Dr Barbara Rolls, the creator of the Volumetrics plan, says that people feel full because of the amount of food they eat – not because of the number of calories or the grams of fat, protein, or carbs. So the trick is to fill up on foods that aren’t full of calories. Rolls claims that in some cases, following Volumetrics will allow you to eat more – not less – than you do now [ source ].  So basically things like fruit and vegetable, which contain a lot of water and bulk, but not many calories, can be eaten in large quantities with other items being eaten in smaller amounts. 

    Example of Volumetrics in action – two plates of food which are calorifically equivalent, yet the plate which focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, is clearly the bigger meal. eggs [ source ]

    After reading about Volumetrics and bearing Emily’s idea in mind,  I have come to the conclusion that I can indeed have three large-looking meals and two snacks per day without being stuffed to the gills.  All I have to do is make sure that my meals look large because they are bulked out with fruit and vegetables and that less healthy foods are eaten in moderation.  I think I already do this to some extent but I need to focus on it more and make fruit and vegetables the star of the meal, rather than being mere additions.  Sometimes I don’t like to make big meals because I am a little afraid of being judged but there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty for eating a big meal that is made up of lots of fruit and vegetables.

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