Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Snack Question

I think it is the single most-asked question by paleo/primal newbies, or even the paleo-curious: What about snacks?

In fact, I think that, just in the last week, at least two people at work have asked me this question and I think I have already chimed in with an answer to it two or three times on various Facebook pages as well. We love our snacks.

And I totally get it. Pre-paleo, I was a snacking machine. I couldn't make it between *any* meals without shoving some carby nightmare into my gaping maw. So when I first went paleo, I asked the same thing:

What about snacks?

And the answer was pretty much always identical: some variant of jerky, almonds, maybe with some dried fruit, or, better yet, a combo of all three like you can get in a Paleo Kit from Steve's Original.

And those types of snacks are great. In fact, I'll call them the First Level of Paleo Snacking. When you can't eat the kind of food that you'd eat at a regular meal, they do the trick. *And* they are paleo. (*And* in the case of Steve's Original, they support a great charity).

But.... invariably it seems that, as time passes, the number of almonds you are stuffing into your own gaping maw starts to get a little bigger, and bigger, until eventually you are reaching Omega-6-intake levels that could only be equaled by mainlining mayonnaise.

Back off.

Try and shift gears into the Second Level of Paleo Snacking: packing a little extra real food. You know.... the same kind of stuff you usually eat. If lunch is a Tupperware container full of grassfed lamb, guacamole and greens, instead of packing a jerky/almonds snack, think outside (inside?) the box and JUST PACK MORE REAL FOOD. Pack an extra container of that same meat/guacamole/greens combo. Voila.... a "snack" is born.

But, eventually, you can do even better (grasshopper).

Think about it. If you have successfully reached the vaunted Second Level of Paleo Snacking by just packing an extra container of the very same thing you were already eating for lunch, how about this: Just eat *more* at lunch (or breakfast, or dinner).

And, suddenly.... you have reached the (double-vaunted) Third Level of Paleo Snacking: where, in some sort of double-secret Zen trick, the need to snack (almost entirely) disappears. I say "almost entirely" because, hell, I still snack sometimes, but not anything near what I used to.

See, we get these funny/distorted ideas of how much food we are "supposed" to eat at a meal. I don't know where it comes from -- mom, grandma, your spouse, that mean cafeteria lady in third grade, whatever -- but it really generally has almost no relation to the amount of food your body actually *needs* to reach satiety (that's "feeling full").

This is particularly true if, like me, you are an active person. If I go to the gym in the morning and, say, deadlift a bunch of heavy reps and then do a metcon of some sort that lasts 10-20 minutes, if I just let myself eat until I am *truly* full, my breakfast will look something like: 3 or 4 eggs, 3 or 4 strips of bacon, a half-pound (or more) of some kind of meat, a pile of green veggies, a sweet potato and an avocado, followed by a bowl of blueberries covered in coconut milk.

It's a lot of food. It is particularly a lot of food compared to what almost anyone (except perhaps an experienced fellow traveler on the paleo/primal road) would "serve" me as a "normal" meal.

I think you see where we are going here.

If you eat until you are really and truly full at meals *and* your meals include good fats and protein to keep you full, you won't need to snack very often, if at all.

And a lot of this has to do with leveling out your hormones, particularly insulin. When I first went paleo/primal, I had just concluded what I have previously described as the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride of insulin spikes and valleys. Grainy living had effed me up for years, and it took a while in this lifestyle to level things out. I found that my snacking needs were a lot higher as a result back then.

But you'll get there. Don't worry that in the beginning you are going to want to snack. Do it. Just do it smart, and progress your way through the aforementioned "levels of paleo snacking," and, in less time than you think, if you listen to your body's real hunger needs, you will eat so much great, filling food at meals that your need to snack will be nearly, or even completely, eliminated.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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