Harley Pasternak: The Skinny on Snacking

The celebrity trainer offers healthy alternatives — and cautions against overeating between meals

Harley Pasternak

Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. Tweet him @harleypasternak.

A recent headline in the Wall Street Journal proclaimed, “Forget dinner. It’s Always Snack Time in America.” Americans are snacking more than ever, but we’re doing it all wrong. According to the latest government data:

65 percent of adults eat two or more snacks a day, up dramatically from earlier surveys;

Men and women consume an average of 586 and 421 daily calories, respectively, in snacks;

Snacks on average represent 24 percent of daily calorie intake and contain a higher proportion of alcohol, carbohydrate and total sugars than meals do;

Conversely, snacks provide lower proportions of most other nutrients, including protein, fiber and many vitamins and minerals;

More frequent snacking is associated with higher overall calorie intake. Those who eat four or more snacks a day consume almost 50 percent more calories than other adults;

According to a survey by Hartman, a consumer tracking group, snackers start off the day with relatively healthy snacks — fruit, dairy, etc. — but later in the day sweets, salty snacks and crackers predominate.

Snacking has its place. I’m a huge proponent of snacks when done properly; I recommend three meals and two snacks a day. Smart snacking can actually moderate your appetite and keep weight under control better than three big “squares” a day. Why? If you wait too long between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner, you’re more likely to be ravenous and overeat and/or make poor food choices.

However, all snacks are not created equal — I’m not saying a bag of Doritos count as a snack. To benefit your metabolism, your appetite and your waistline, snacks need to have protein and fiber. Fiber fills you up, and protein helps you stay fuller longer.

“Snacking” shouldn’t increase calorie intake over the day. Ideally, your snacks should be spaced out so you’re eating every three to four hours. Keep portions moderate, ideally no more than 150 calories. You may have both a morning and late afternoon snack or light meal, but these calories should only balance out those consumed at lunch and/or dinner. However, whether or not they’re conscious of it, most people consume incremental calories in their snacks, increasing the total calorie intake. And we all know where that leads.

The key is disciplined snacking. Don’t let yourself get stuck without a healthy snack option. If you allow yourself to get famished at work, you’re going to be more likely to get your snack from the vending machine, and when was the last time you saw something fresh and healthy in one of those?

Plan ahead. A snack is not a good snack unless it has both protein and fiber. If you’re having a healthy non-fat Greek yogurt, supplement it with some high-fiber fresh berries. Have a crisp apple at your desk? Pair it with a low-fat cheese stick. Pre-portion your snacks by putting them in a sandwich baggie instead of taking the whole bag — that way, you won’t overdo it.

Here are some delicious, healthy snacks with both protein and fiber that are portable for work and school:

Air-popped popcorn (Half Naked, Fit Popcorn, Skinny Pop, Boom Chicks Pop)

Organic beef or turkey jerky (Oberto, homemade)

Apple slices and almond butter (Justin’s, 365 Whole Foods)

Cut veggies and hummus (Teva, Trader Joe’s, Sabra)

Berries and Greek yogurt (Siggi’s, Oikos, Wallaby)

Happy — and healthy — snacking!

RELATED: All of Harley’s Blogs and Training Advice


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