Is snacking good for your health?

Is snacking good for your health?

Snacking has many health benefits, particularly if you are going through cancer treatment, says Corey Tolbert, RD, LD, a licensed and registered dietitian at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.

Eating healthy snacks throughout the day can:

  • Stabilize your blood sugar. “Snacking keeps your blood sugar stable and the more consistent it can be, the better,” Tolbert says.  

  • Boost your metabolism. “Eating approximately every three hours will keep your metabolism working. The more you use your metabolism, the faster it will become,” she explains. “If you skip meals and don’t get enough to eat, your metabolism will slow down.”

  • Give you more energy. Consuming regular healthy snacks ensures you’re getting enough calories and protein throughout the day for energy.

  • Reduce overeating. “If you just eat breakfast and don’t eat again until the evening, you may overeat at night,” Tolbert explains.

  • Help you get the right nutrients. “If you aren’t meeting your nutritional needs, your immune system will decline and you’ll be more susceptible to viruses and bacteria,” she says. “Also, if you lose too much weight too quickly, your doctor may delay cancer treatment until you are healthier.”

  • Aid in treatment recovery. “If you are going through cancer treatment, you will need more calories and protein for healing,” Tolbert says. “If you’re going through chemotherapy, it may be hard to tolerate large meals, so you may need smaller, more frequent meals five to seven times a day.”

Signs you need a snack

Ideally, you should eat every three hours, particularly if you are undergoing cancer treatment. Here are some signs you could use a snack:

  • Headache

  • Hunger pains

  • Irritability

  • Lack of focus

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

  • Sluggishness

“When people get busy, they ignore those signs and by the time they notice them, they are usually way past being hungry,” she says.

Smart snacking

“The main thing you want to concentrate on is balancing your snacks and meals,” says Tolbert. “Make sure you’re getting protein, healthy carbohydrates and healthy fats. You need carbs throughout the day for energy, but be sure to pair them with a protein to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.”

Stick to about 200 calories per snack. Some examples of balanced snacks Tolbert recommends:

  • Piece of toast with slices of turkey and avocado

  • Yogurt and granola or walnuts

  • String cheese and an apple

  • ¼ cup of almonds with 10 grapes

  • Whole wheat English muffin with natural peanut butter

Talk to your doctor or dietitian to determine your specific caloric and nutritional needs, particularly if you are undergoing medical treatment.

Learn more about nutrition for cancer survivors.

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