No Such Thing as a Healthy Snack

When I read about what snacking does to our blood sugar in Cate Shanahan, MD’s book, Deep Nutrition, it made perfect sense to me. Since we have such ubiquitous access to food, it’s easy to grab a few crackers or cookies to ‘tide you over’ until the next meal–and wreak havok on keeping blood sugar levels even.  And the crazy thing is that having hummus on celery or carrot sticks messes with your blood sugar about as much as the cookies.  Whaaaaaat? For many of us, it’s especially tempting in the mid-afternoon. But how do you define snacking?  What qualifies as a snack? This is where it gets tricky.

Dr. Shanahan defines a ‘snack’ as any type of calories consumed as a food or beverage plus anything with a fake sweetener, even it has no calories.  That’s because fake sweeteners trigger your blood sugar, just like food and beverages with calories. If you add cream or sweetener to your morning coffee,  and that’s all you have to break your fast, that’s a snack.  If you have a piece of cheese and a few nuts, that’s a snack and can potentially raise your blood sugar.  However…that does not mean you have to give up your coffee or your nuts–just have them as part of a meal.

All of this leads up to the possibility of what is currently called intermittent fasting. Far different than consuming nothing but water for days at a time, intermittent fasting simply means limiting the number of hours during which you eat. over a period of several months, I kept putting off breakfast a little more at time and learned to feel what it’s like to be hungry.  If you get dizzy or have other low blood sugar symptoms, you need to eat without delaying.  But over time, your body adjusts to fewer times each day you’re eating and those symptoms go away.  In time, many people end up going from three meals a day to two, though it often feels like you’re eating just as much food.

Have you become used to snacking as a way to manage hypoglycemia? That’s actually a sign of blood sugar problems. But don’t despair.  Cate shows us how to make better choices with quality fat and protein at every meal to minimize sugar cravings and the desire to snack.

These are the benefits I’m finding from eating less often and during a shorter window of time during the day:

  • Fewer symptoms of hypoglycemia when I’m in between meals; dizziness, headaches and what some call being ‘hangry’
  • Blood sugar levels have started evening out, which indicates less systemic inflammation and you know what inflammation contributes to: cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a host of others
  • Less time spent on meal preparation and cleanup, and more attention spent on resourcing local foods and gardening
  • More awareness of the impact of vegetable oils on my body; I love to support local restaurants and have learned to ask them to choose olive oil, butter and lard over the cheaper seed oils/vegetable oil
  • Quality starts taking precedence over quantity of meals, making cooking more fun again.  And if it’s more fun, you’ll get more creative and often enjoy a wider array of foods.

Are you intrigued? Fore more information, check out the work of Dr. Cate Shanahan and make cooking a pleasure again!