It would be great if there were one magic formula everyone could follow and know what, when, and how much to eat to look and feel their best, so no one has to guess and face possible side effects such as weight gain. But there isn’t.
“All of our bodies are unique,” Samantha Eaton, certified health coach at Healthy Eaton, says. “What works really well for your friend might not work at all for you.” The best thing you can do is to listen to your body. Get in tune with it, she adds. “When you are physically hungry, eat. As soon as you feel satisfied, stop.”
The body has natural, built-in portion control systems that won’t let you overeat as long as you’re eating mindfully to begin with and you are paying attention to it instead of multitasking (like inhaling your food while working), Eaton says.
Making a snack healthy means making it balanced, Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN at New York Nutrition Group, says. You should ideally include protein, carbs and healthy fats. A 100-calorie snack should contain at least of these macronutrients, she adds. Whole foods are always definitely better than packaged foods, so opt out for them whenever possible for a healthy snack, Moskovitz says.
The generally accepted eating regimen is having three meals and 2-3 snacks in between. You should not pay attention to the numbers because they vary with people and their individual metabolisms, according to Nikita Kapur, MS, RDN, CDN, CLT at Compass Nutrition, says. “If you’re eating a balanced breakfast, you’ll ideally be hungry in 4-5 hours at which point you can have a snack,” she adds.
How often you eat, whether meals or snacks, also depends on how long your day is and on your activity level. If you had breakfast at 6 a.m., then you may want to have a snack if lunch is at 1 p.m., Moskovitz says. “But if you had a late breakfast and early lunch, you probably should skip snack time.”
What is important with calories is not really how many you’re consuming, but where they are coming from, Kapur says, because not all are created equal. Eating snacks that contain healthy fat, complex carbs, protein, and fiber will keep you energized, full, and focused, Eaton adds.