Why Snacking Is Bad For You

From Dr. Daryl Gioffre

If you are like me, you have probably heard this advice time and time again: you need to eat 5 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day, and should focus on putting something into your body every 2 hours or so. I can’t tell you how many different sources I have heard this from, in fact, there are quite a few research articles that support this way of eating.

While you may see some positive changes in your metabolism and blood sugar levels when grazing, your body will quickly get used to this way of eating. When this happens, your cravings will increase as your body will expect food on a regular basis due to the constant repetition. In addition, your blood sugar and insulin levels will spike, ultimately leading you down the path to insulin sensitivity, which can have many downside and dangerous effects on your body.

These can range from sugar cravings and storing fat in the short run, to chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer in the long run. This is why I strongly disagree with the concept of grazing. If you look back to our pre-agricultural ancestors, they didn’t have the access to food around the clock like we do in modern times. While having food at our fingertips 24/7 can be quite beneficial and convenient to us in many ways, as you can see, the negatives certainly can outweigh the positives.

Instead, you want to opt for 3 meals a day, and ideally, space them all within an 8-hour window. This latter part is a concept known as intermittent fasting, where you alternate periods of eating (8 hours on) with a period of non-eating (16 hours). While this is not required, it is optimal and highly beneficial.

During the 8 hours, your goal is to eat 3 meals a day with no grazing in-between, with the focus of your more substantial meals taking place at breakfast and lunch. If you are in the line of work that requires a lot of physical activity, or if you are an athlete, or pregnant, it is even more important to get your day started with a hearty breakfast. Regardless, your two biggest meals should always be adjacent to each other – whether that’s breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, and the alternate being lighter in nature.

I always go lighter at dinner time with a colorful salad or some zucchini noodles (try to avoid slower digesting foods like protein). Be sure to finish dinner at least 3 hours before going to sleep (this is a MUST!). Your body requires the fewest calories when sleeping, so the last thing you want to do is have a heavy dinner loaded with slow digesting protein right before bed. In the other remaining 16 hours, hydration is very important (coffee doesn’t count!), and you can drink herbal teas and green alkaline juices as well.

Focusing on 3 meals instead of eating every couple of hours accomplishes a few important things in your body. The main focus of this way of eating is to keep your sugar and insulin levels low. First and foremost, your body moves from burning sugar as its primary fuel source (which is a dirty burn), to burning fat instead which is ideal. This resetting or transition can take anywhere from a few weeks upwards to a few months, but once there, your insulin levels will remain at bay and your body will turn into a fat burning machine! The quality of your foods is very important during this time. Avoiding sugar and grains is crucial because again, your primary goal is to keep your insulin levels stable so that your body can become a fat-burner.

Even though it may appear you are eating less, you’re not. Here is one of my most important mottos – it’s not about deprivation, and I certainly don’t believe in calorie counting. When you are living an alkaline lifestyle and following my 80/20 rule (where 80% or more of your foods are alkaline, and no more than 20% acidic), calorie counting goes out the window. It’s all about the quality.

Aim for alkaline foods loaded with dark green leafy vegetables, and I always try to eat a nice rainbow salad twice a day, sometimes even for breakfast. My greens will come from spinach, kale, Swiss chard, watercress, and/or romaine, and I always color it up with red bell peppers, cucumbers, red onions, carrot slices, celery, sprouts (30x more nutritious than their vegetable counterpart), beetroot, jalapeno, and always some healthy fats like avocado, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), raw nuts and seeds like almonds, hemp, and chia, and tahini dressings.

When I look at my plate, its primarily consists of dark green leafy vegetables and healthy fats, moderate protein, and little to no carbs. In fact, greens and fats should make up about 80% of your total diet, with protein coming in at no more than 10-15%, and again, minimal carbs at 5-10%.

Protein should be a necessary part of your daily diet, but much less than what most people are currently doing. It’s a fact that Americans get far too much protein in their diet. In addition to quantity and eating far too much, it’s the quality that could be the damaging component to your health. For example, research shows that excess animal protein is linked with osteoporosis, kidney disease, calcium stones in the urinary tract, and some cancers. Increasing red meat intake by more than half a serving per day raises risk for Type 2 diabetes by 48%.

According to a Harvard study, you can live up to 20% longer by eliminating or at least reducing how much red meat you eat. People who ate the highest levels of red meat died the youngest, most often from colon cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, when you consume protein in excess, your body will convert it to glucose and store it as fat, just like it does as if you ate sugar or grains.

If you are going to eat animal based proteins, opt for proteins rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids like wild caught salmon, walleye, sardines, and anchovies. In addition, increase plant based proteins from quinoa, dark green leafy vegetables, chia and hemp seeds, hummus, and smaller beans that have been soaked and sprouted like chickpeas.

To summarize – if you are looking to lose weight and prevent chronic disease, you need to eliminate the sugar, grains, and other acidic foods, and be extremely careful about the quantity and quality of the proteins you choose to eat. Aim for 3 meals a day, try to get them all within an 8-hour window, avoid grazing in-between, and always give yourself at least 3 hours before eating an going to sleep.

At the end of the day, perhaps my best recommendation is to simply let your hunger dictate when you eat, not your emotions (guilty as charged!). If you are hungry and its in-between meals, by no means am I telling you to starve yourself. What I am telling you to do is dial in to your body and truly listen to what your body is telling you to do.

Are you hungry, or just dehydrated? Did you know that your hunger AND thirst mechanisms go to the same part of your brain? Sometimes when you think you are hungry, you may be just thirsty. So before going for that healthy snack, I suggest you drink a tall glass of room temperature lemon water, and supercharge it with a scoop of Alkamind Daily Greens and Daily Minerals.

As I just mentioned, sometimes we eat because we are stressed or bored, so after hydrating and waiting 15 minutes, next go for a 10-15 minute brisk walk. Walking stimulates your feel-good hormones, and that may be enough to kick the hunger habit. After that, if you are still hungry, then I give you full permission to go for a healthy snack. Some of my favorites are celery boats which is a piece of celery and raw almond butter with hemp seeds, or ½ avocado with lime juice and hemp seeds. Most important is when you do eat, make sure that you are alkaline based, focused on nutrient-dense, mineral based greens and healthy fats to fuel your day and your life.

Want more from Dr. Daryl? Check out his guide to dining out on the alkaline diet or read his recommendations for ways to stay hydrated.

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All content on The New Potato (even when supplied by a medical professional) is intended for educational and conversational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any new diet, exercise regime, or wellness routine.