Breaking the snack habit

Snack time

I’m not big on snacking. In fact, I really don’t think humans need to snack. If you’re eating the right types of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you shouldn’t really feel hungry between meals.

But people are so used to doing it that many of my patients have admitted that it’s really one of the toughest habits to break. For some people it’s even harder than cutting out sugar. And of course, my advice is not to overwhelm yourself all at once. You’re much more likely to stick with healthy changes if you make them gradually.

So if you are going to snack, there are a few guidelines you should follow to make sure you’re not sabotaging your weight-loss efforts. For example, a new study shows that there may actually be a “right” time of day to snack.

It appears that after dinner is the best time.

Researchers took a look at 123 postmenopausal women who were overweight or obese. Each was instructed to keep a daily food diary, recording everything they ate or drank and when.

At the end of the one-year study, researchers found that nearly everyone snacked. But time of day mattered in their weight loss:

Midmorning (10:30 to 11:29 am). Women who regularly ate a midmorning snack lost an average of 7% of their body weight. Those who didn’t snack between breakfast and lunch lost almost twice that–12%, on average.

Mid-afternoon (2:00 to 5:29 pm). Women who snacked between lunch and dinner lost slightly less weight than women who didn’t.

Evening (9:00 pm to midnight). Those who snacked after dinner actually lost more weight than either of the other groups.

Researchers didn’t speculate as to why the late-night snackers lost the most weight. If I had to venture a guess I’d say that maybe it helped them sleep better. Which kept their metabolisms regulated. Which helped them lose weight more easily.

Just keep in mind that a snack is just that. It shouldn’t be equivalent to an entire meal. A couple of cubes of cheese. A few almonds or walnuts. A hardboiled egg. Any one of these should be plenty to tide you over.