Why do we say “no snacking” in our Healthy Habits Challenge?
Low-hanging fruit of intermittent fasting
Simply put, not snacking is the low-hanging fruit of intermittent fasting. If you eat 3 meals a day, the gap between at least two of these will be significant if you don’t snack. For example, in a recent study of breast cancer patients, those who fasted at least 13 hours overnight had a lower recurrence of cancer. That’s just not eating in the night! In a Korean study, people who had ketones in their urine “spontaneously” when tested, in other words they weren’t starving or on a keto diet, just hadn’t eaten for a while, had an almost halved risk of type 2 diabetes later on. So even before we get to the health benefits of intermittent fasting, a little time-restriction in the eating pattern – which experts call “not snacking” – shows up as something that appears to reduce risk and improve health.
Control what goes in your body
There’s another consideration – when you prepare a meal you have most control over what goes into your body. When you snack, you choose things that need less preparation. If you’re away from home especially, those may be ultra-processed or high carb foods, or perhaps just not what you’d prefer.
Does anyone need to snack?
If you’re underweight, eating when you can might help put weight back on. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, having access to extra energy can reduce stress, and if you’re an athlete at a fairly high level you might not be able to pack all the energy you need into 3 meals. In all those states, appetite for meals may not match fuel needs.
But most of us want to be hungry at mealtimes, when our best food is ready to eat, and know that appetite can be spoiled by snacking.
What’s a good snack at times when snacking is OK?
That would be a nutritious food, something you want to eat for its nutrient value, but which doesn’t really fit in a meal. It’s a good time to have a piece of fruit, some nuts, or a piece of nice cheese. Or, it’s leftovers from dinner, so that nothing goes to waste. In this way we can turn snacking to our advantage, by putting it mindfully among the ways we use food.
We challenge you to not snack, firstly because this has health benefits, secondly because you may find you never need to snack again, which will save you time and money, but also because you will then get to rethink what snacking has meant to you, and perhaps use it in future in a new and better way.
Marinac CR, Nelson SH, Breen CI, et al. Prolonged Nightly Fasting and Breast Cancer Prognosis. JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(8):1049–1055. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.
Kim G, Lee SG, Lee BW, et al. Spontaneous ketonuria and risk of incident diabetes: a 12 year prospective study. Diabetologia. 2019;62(5):779–788.