To Snack or Not To Snack?
Imagine this…you are lying on the sofa, watching your favorite television show, and all of a sudden the thought of a snack enters your mind. Now, you may hop up off the couch and head right into the kitchen, but not so fast! Before you partake in some mindless snacking, ask yourself, “Am I experiencing true hunger pangs or is it my appetite calling me to the kitchen?”
Hunger vs. Appetite One of the most useful techniques you can learn and teach yourself is how to differentiate hunger from appetite, which will help you to manage them accordingly. Hunger is “the physical urge to eat that is prompted by immediate need for energy.” When you experience hunger, the action of eating serves to fuel your body, allowing it to function optimally. Appetite is “the desire to eat food, felt as hunger”; it is a sensory or psychological reaction. When a food looks, smells, or sounds good this triggers a physical response like salivation or stomach contractions.
One of the main differences, you will realize, between hunger and appetite is the amount of food you are likely to consume. Since you are feeding your body when you are hungry, you can eat a reasonable amount of food, but will most likely stop when you’re satisfied. When appetite is the culprit, however, it’s very easy to overeat and still crave more! So back to the question, “Am I experiencing true hunger pangs or is it my appetite calling me to the kitchen?” One of the most practical evaluation techniques I have heard of involves the use of an imaginary line. Close your eyes and concentrate. Now draw a line across your shoulders and ask yourself which half of you wants to eat? Is it your brain (above the line) or your stomach (below the line)? Soon, and with enough practice, you will be able to decide if you are indeed physically hungry or if your appetite is getting the best of you. Give it a try!
Healthy Snacks Not only is it important to be able to tell the difference between episodes of real hunger and others of cravings (appetite), but it is also important to know that snacking can be a good thing; in fact, snacking is recommended and beneficial in keeping your metabolism active and controlling your hunger and appetite…it’s just all in what you choose to munch on.
Here are a few healthful and easy snack choices:
Cut up vegetables like red, green and yellow peppers, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, or edamame (soybean).
Fruit such as apple wedges, orange slices, pieces of pear or peach, ½ banana or grapefruit, or even 1 cup of fresh berries. Some other ideas are air-popped popcorn, pretzel sticks, ½ cup nonfat milk or “light” yogurt, 1/4 cup of cottage cheese, string cheese, a handful of almonds or soynuts. For a sweet treat, try blueberries with fat free whipped topping or strawberries with sugar-free chocolate syrup. So, do you now know when to snack and when not to snack?
Written by: Tracey, MS, RD