You probably heard Mom say this once or twice as a kid—“don’t snack, you’re going to ruin your dinner!”
Well, guess what? She was right!
This snacking habit isn’t our fault—it’s 40 years of U.S. Dietary Guidelines telling us what we should and shouldn’t do with our food.
The “six small meals a day” strategy was one of the first rules I had to let go of when I found out my cholesterol was sky-high. I had been under the impression that these six meals—which acted more like snacks—were helping me reach my goals when in reality, they were moving me further away.
If you struggle with snacking or are looking for a way to kick the snacking habit to the curb, I’m here to tell you I’ve figured it out and I want to share it with you!
Here’s why snacking is setting you back and how you can leave the mini-meals behind and start eating better today.
The first nutritional guidelines back in 1977 told us to stop eating three solid meals a day and switch to six small ones. The theory—digestion raises the metabolism, so do your best to keep that engine running.
That was over 40 years ago, and today we know a lot more about the endocrine system—specifically the biggest fat-storing hormone in the body: insulin.
Now, we understand that (1) our bodies won’t burn fat unless our insulin levels are low, and (2) eating raises our insulin levels.
Grazing throughout the day keeps our insulin levels elevated when we follow the six small meals methodology. Not only that, but it throws off eating windows where we consume our largest amounts of macros, leaving our body lost and confused on when it’s going to get its next influx of nutrients.
Today, the vast majority of us snack throughout the day, grocery stores offer more snack foods than ever before, and we’re still getting bombarded with messages that six small meals is the move if you want to lose weight.
Small meals and snacks don’t fill us up, keep us full, or provide adequate nutrition. They often add empty calories, spike our insulin, and leave us less interested in the nutritionally dense foods of a full meal. Even healthier snack options might be messing you up.
You wake up and keep things light by eating an apple for breakfast. Because this snack doesn’t include any fat or protein, your body doesn’t feel full or satisfied for long, but your insulin levels are revved up from the sugar.
An hour later, you’re hungry and have some whole-wheat toast, keeping your insulin levels high but again, leaving yourself not feeling completely satisfied.
When the time comes to sit down for a full-plate meal, it doesn’t sound too appetizing because your body is not hungry but also isn’t completely full either. Thus, you settle for a few small bites or none at all and walk away once again, unsatisfied.
When you keep this strategy up, your body stays in a constant state of high insulin, leaving little room for you to burn fat for fuel—aka lose weight. Now, you’re undereating in nutrients and overeating in insulin, which can only lead to added weight gain and other health setbacks.
For decades, we’ve been taught to think that under-eating is the way to lose weight: Eat less, cut calories, keep yourself hungry, starve yourself for success.
It’s time we throw this theory into the garbage and take it out to the curb! The research is on our side—undereating does more harm than good.
As we get older, undereating produces less results than adequate eating. Small meals leave us feeling unsatisfied, which makes us want to snack more. The temporary fix of a small snack makes our bodies crave even harder, shortly after we put the bag of pretzels back on the shelf.
And this cycle repeats itself over, and over, and over again.
Most snacks are high in carbs and sugars while low in protein, fat, and fiber. Rather than running on whole-food nutrition, our body adapts to burning carbohydrates for energy. Snacking can then steer your body away from burning fat for energy and make you crave sugars and bread when you’re hungry.
As a result, trying to get out of this cycle and habit becomes a massive challenge.
I want to make it easy for you to set snacking aside and starting eating full, nutritious meals filled with whole foods. Below, I’ve outlined 4 practices I use every day personally as well as in my LEAN Program, and let me tell you, they work.
When you hear “Intermittent Fasting” you probably are thinking about a diet plan.
Most do, but intermittent fasting is more about when you eat than what you eat. It’s an eating schedule, not a restricting diet.
Intermittent fasting helps you set a window of time when you eat all your calories and macronutrients for the day. Its health benefits are far and wide, including healthy weight loss.
It simultaneously increases your metabolism and fat burning, while lowering insulin. Plus, it’ll give you a boost of energy and mental focus, helping you remember and stick to your health goals.
If you’re new to intermittent fasting, you’re going to want to grab my Free Intermittent Fasting eBook, which will walk you through the basics of fasting and how you can start doing it today.
Give your body time to recover between meals by eating in specific time slots. Keep it simple and eat the typical 8am breakfast, 12pm lunch, and 6pm dinner. This will help your body get used to and prepared for insulin spikes that occur regularly, rather than all the time.
I like setting my days up with two big meals and one medium-sized meal. My favorite lunch is a bagged salad with some form of protein, which usually rings in at about 700 calories. By providing my body with the sustenance it needs, I can enjoy the rest of my day satisfied until dinner.
Look at your current lifestyle and identify the times you can commit to eating full, nutritious meals throughout the day. Be willing to make adjustments and tweak the size and ingredients of these meals to fit with your goals and taste preferences, but always make sure you cover your essential macros.
Protein reduces hunger cravings while boosting the metabolism, and it’s the best macronutrient for zapping stubborn belly fat.
While you’re planning the size and times of your three daily meals, make sure your protein game is strong throughout the day. Protein is the one macronutrient that should stay consistent across your meals so that your body digests the meal slowly and stays satisfied longer.
Keep your protein high in each meal by adding some chicken to your lunch, tossing in chia seeds to your morning oats, or topping your salads with some chickpeas.
And if you’re wondering about shakes as a way to get that extra protein in, check out my guide to picking the proper protein powder.
When eating healthy starts to feel like a full-time job, we’ve veered off the trail of healthy living. You shouldn’t have to feel like the entire day is focused on your meals.
It doesn’t have to be complicated—prep 1 or 2 of your full meals every week so you’re ahead of the game, store healthy snacks (veggies, fruits) in the house, drink copious amounts of water, and stick to your eating schedule.
When these practices work together with one another, you’ll start to see a significant reduction in your cravings and snack habits.
Decades later, we’re realizing just how right Mom was when she stopped us from snacking before dinner.
Don’t ruin your healthy meals with mindless snacking. Boot the six-small-meal strategy from 40-years ago and keep things simple and satisfying with three solid meals a day. Then, kick back and watch the weight start to fall away.
For more of my top tips on weight loss that actually work, sign up for my weekly newsletter that’s chock full of tips, tricks, and recipes.
If you’re ready to live your healthiest and make the switch now, join my LEAN program today. Your fit future self will thank you.