Are you tired of feeling guilty whenever you reach for a snack? Are you looking for a way to incorporate satisfying and healthy snacks into your routine without worrying about diet rules or calories?
Diet culture makes snacking so difficult and confusing.
There’s so much conflicting information about when to snack, what to snack on, and if you should even be snacking at all.
Intuitive Eating can take the confusion out of snacks.
In this ultimate guide to Intuitive Eating snacks, I’ll cover how Intuitive Eating can help you choose satisfying snacks that align with your body’s needs AND your taste preferences.
I’ll also debunk some common snacking myths perpetuated by diet culture, provide practical tips for building satisfying and nourishing snacks, and give you 30+ Intuitive Eating snack ideas!
Table of Contents
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based, weight-neutral approach to eating that works to heal your relationship with food and body image.
What does that mean? Instead of a goal of weight loss, Intuitive Eating is about health gain.
Weight loss diets use restrictions and rules to change your body into something “better” and are typically driven by self-loathing and shame.
In contrast, Intuitive Eating is about tuning into your body’s internal wisdom to honor, nourish, and respect your body and is driven by self-compassion and values.
Diet Culture Snacking Myths
Thanks to diet culture, snacking has become a complicated topic full of rules and restrictions that can make it hard to enjoy food and nourish our bodies. So, before we dive into intuitive eating snack tips, let’s bust some common diet culture myths.
Myth 1: Eating past 7 pm will make you gain weight.
Truth: This idea stems from the belief that our bodies shut down and use less energy while we sleep, so food eaten at night is stored fat. This misconception doesn’t take our body’s complex physiology into account.
In reality, our bodies don’t operate on a strict 24-hour clock. We process and metabolize food throughout the day and night, depending on our overall needs. It doesn’t just stop at night or reset at the end of the day.
Additionally, this sentiment is steeped in fatphobia. Weight gain is not inherently bad or something that must be avoided at all costs. Bodies are complex and dynamic, weight fluctuates for a variety of reasons.
Rather than striving to eat as little as possible and constantly shrinking your body to fit an unrealistic body standard, focus on providing your body with the energy and nourishment it needs to feel your best.
Myth 2: Eating small frequent meals and snacks will ignite your metabolism.
Truth: The idea that eating more frequently will “stoke” your metabolism is a common myth. While it’s true that eating can temporarily increase your metabolic rate (known as the thermic effect of food), the effect is relatively small and not dependent on meal frequency.
Research has shown that meal frequency does not have a significant effect on overall metabolic rate when all other factors are equal..
“Metablism-boosting” strategies aren’t grounded in science, they’re just headline-worthy and increase clicks. Instead of being helpful, they just create confusion and more food rules.
Instead, focus on tuning into your body’s cues to know when to eat and eat a balanced and satisfying diet that includes a wide variety of foods.
Myth 3: Don’t snack before exercise.
Truth: While it’s true that exercising on a full stomach may cause discomfort, nausea, or other digestive issues, snacking before a workout can provide you with the fuel you need to perform your best.
The key is to choose the right kind of snack and time it appropriately for your body and the type of workout. It’s also important to remember that while there are guidelines for fueling for exercise, everyone’s body is unique and may respond differently to varying foods, portions, and timing.
Experiment with different options and pay attention to how your body feels and responds to find the best approach for you. If you need more guidance, a registered dietitian can help you with this.
Myth 4: Snacking is bad for you.
Truth: Diet culture loves to make vague, fear-mongering, blanket statements like this. The truth is the human body is highly adaptable. There’s no “right” pattern of eating.
It’s important to find what works best for you and have flexibility. Keep in mind this may change throughout different stages of your life as needs, lifestyle, and preferences change, and that is okay!
Snacking can be part of a healthy and satisfying eating pattern, and there are so many benefits to incorporating snacks!
In the next section, I’ll dive deeper into these benefits and offer tips and ideas for building nourishing snacks into your routine.
The Benefits of Snacking
Snacking intuitively can be a healthy and satisfying way to provide the body with stable energy and nutrients throughout the day. There are so many benefits to snacking, both physical and mental, including:
- Prevents extreme hunger
Adding snacks helps to prevent you from getting too hungry between meals. Extreme hunger can lead to an out-of-control feeling while eating and makes it difficult to make conscious choices about what to eat.
- Boosts energy
Eating a balanced snack between meals can give you the fuel to boost your energy, making it easier to power through your day.
- Helps with cravings
Both mental and physical restrictions intensify cravings. By incorporating satisfying and balanced snacks, you help with both.
- Nourishes your body
Snacks give you an extra dose of macronutrients, fiber, and/or micronutrients, helping to keep your body energized and functioning well.
- Enhances focus and productivity
Eating a snack can help improve concentration and productivity. Ever start to lose focus as you get hungry?
- Promotes a healthy relationship with food
Allowing yourself to enjoy snacks without guilt or shame can help build a healthy relationship with food and establish beneficial and natural eating patterns.
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels
Incorporating balanced snacks with 2-3 macronutrients and/or fiber can help maintain steady blood sugar levels.
10 Tips for Intuitive Eating Snacking
Ready to reclaim snacking as a positive and satisfying experience? Here are ten tips for snacking intuitively:
- Let hunger guide you.
Tune into your internal body cues and honor them. If you ate a meal and feel hungry again two hours later, there’s no reason you can’t eat again. Your meal might not have been big enough, or maybe your body just needs some extra fuel.
(Note: Certain situations make it difficult to be in tune with internal cues, such as illnesses, disordered eating, grief, certain medications, if you’re new to Intuitive Eating, and more. You may need to establish a regular but flexible eating schedule or use practical hunger to guide you. A registered dietitian can help with this).
- Don’t go too long between eating.
Waiting too long to eat can lead to extreme hunger and loss of control around food. Keep yourself fueled with regular meals and snacks throughout the day. As a general guideline, it’s a good idea to eat every 3-4 hours, but this can be longer or shorter depending on an array of factors.
- Make it convenient.
Have a variety of snack options available so you can honor your preferences in the moment. Keep some prepped and easy-to-grab options ready for in-a-pinch.
- Don’t forget satisfaction.
The hub of Intuitive Eating! Snacking doesn’t have to be about nutrition only. It’s okay to choose snacks that you enjoy and satisfy cravings.
- Drop the sneaky diet culture rules.
Challenge any diet culture rules or beliefs that may be influencing your snacking habits and remind yourself that your body deserves nourishment and satisfaction without unnecessary restrictions or limitations.
- Use practical hunger when needed.
If you won’t have the chance to eat for a while, you may have to grab a bite to eat even when you’re not physically hungry. Practical hunger is an act of self-care to help avoid getting too hungry later.
- Don’t stress!
There’s no right or wrong way to practice Intuitive Eating. Every experience is a learning opportunity, so approach snacking with curiosity and openness and without judgment.
- Get creative.
Experiment with different flavor combinations and new foods to keep your snacks interesting and enjoyable.
- Be mindful (when possible).
Give yourself a break to enjoy your snack and be present in the moment, even if it’s just 10 minutes. I know that’s not always possible with busy schedules, but you deserve some moments to yourself once in a while.
- Drop the guilt.
Not everything needs to be ‘healthified.’ Sometimes it’s OK to just eat a regular bowl of ice cream or your favorite chips. One snack will not ruin your health. Give yourself permission to enjoy all foods without guilt.
How to Build Satisfying Snacks Using Intuitive Eating
So, how do you build a satisfying snack using Gentle Nutrition? Here are some guidelines using the principles of Intuitive Eating. Remember, these are not rules. These are simply guidelines to help you incorporate Gentle Nutrition into your snacking.
Before reaching for a snack, pause for a second and reflect on some questions:
- Are you snack-hungry or meal-hungry?
When was the last time you ate? How big was your meal? What is your level of hunger? Just because it isn’t a normal mealtime doesn’t mean you can’t eat a meal. If you’re meal-hungry and won’t have a chance to eat again for a couple of hours, a snack might not cut it.
- How long will you need your snack to hold you over?
For example, if you have a dinner planned in an hour, you might choose something smaller to hold you over until your meal. Eating nothing might leave you ravenous, while a more substantial snack might make you too full when dinner rolls around.
Conversely, if you won’t get a chance to eat again for a few hours, you might need a substantial snack with more protein, fat, and/or fiber. You might need to use a little practical hunger here to avoid reaching extreme hunger later.
- What do you need your snack to do for you, and how do you want it to make you feel?
For example, if you’re planning to exercise, your snack should provide you with quick and easy-to-digest fuel for your workout. If you’ve been experiencing constipation, you may want to add some fiber to your snack.
Also, consider how you want your snack to make you feel. While a high-sugar snack like candy might sound good to eat, it will take a lot of it to fill you up and leave you with an energy spike and then crash. Conversely, incorporating some fiber and protein will be more satiating and provide you with steady energy. Ask yourself what you need in the moment. There’s no right or wrong answer.
Build a Healthy Snack with Gentle Nutrition
Now, with your reflections in mind, it’s time to build your snack:
- Decide what you want to eat and what you have available. Take a moment to consider your craving and what you have on hand to help you make a satisfying choice.
- Add in Gentle Nutrition. Can you add in gentle nutrition to your snack to help you feel your best? Here are some tips for incorporating gentle nutrition. (Note: these are guidelines, not strict rules. Experiment with different options and see what works best for you at different times.)
- Combine at least two macronutrients.
Carbohydrates will give your body energy, and protein and fat will help with satiety, so your snack has staying power (see the table below for options for each macronutrient).
- Add some fiber and micronutrients by adding a fruit or veggie, if you want.
Fruits and veggies provide important vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but you don’t need to have a fruit or vegetable at every snack for it to be nutritious.
- Consider any nutrition-related medical conditions or health factors, if needed.
Just because Intuitive Eating involves unconditional permission to eat all foods doesn’t mean nutrition isn’t a consideration, including if you have a nutrition-related medical condition like IBS, Celiac disease, or hypertension. Oftentimes, eating for a medical condition can feel prescriptive and limiting.
Intuitive Eating for a medical condition, on the other hand, is about making a conscious choice to respect your body through self-care versus restriction.
Take any medical conditions or health factors into consideration and make choices that nourish your body while still being satisfying and enjoyable. An Intuitive Eating dietitian can help you with this.
Intuitive Eating Snack Ideas
Here are some Intuitive Eating snack ideas to help you get started! Whether you’re in the mood for something sweet, savory, or crunchy, these snacks will satisfy your cravings while nourishing your body.
This list is a good starting point, but experiment with different snack combos to find a snack that’s satisfying for you!
Mix and Match Snack Ideas
Choose a snack from at least two of these categories for a satisfying and balanced snack. (Note: Many of these foods contain a mix of macronutrients and have been categorized based on their primary macronutrient composition).
|Fruit and Vegetable
|Whole Wheat Toast
|Low-Fat Greek Yogurt
|Low-Fat String Cheese
|Raisins or Other Dried Fruit
|Salad Dressings and Dips
- Tortilla Chips, melted low-fat cheese, salsa
- Greek yogurt with crumbled oreo and berries
- Protein bar and clementine
- Pistachio and dried apricots
- Pita Chips and slice cucumber with hummus
- English muffin, cream cheese, smoked salmon, and capers
- Poptart with nut butter and a side of fruit
- Cheerios, milk of choice, and blueberries
- S’more made with graham crackers, nut butter, and chocolate
- Potato Chips, hard-boiled egg, and carrots
- Smoothie with fruit, greek yogurt, and nut butter
- Apple with cinnamon and almond butter
- Celery, peanut butter, raisins
- Homemade trail mix
- Crackers, cheese, snap peas
- Avocado toast with sliced tomatoes
- Pinwheels with wraps, cream cheese, herbs, and turkey
- Cottage cheese, sliced peaches, and chia seeds
- Rice cakes, almond butter, sliced banana
- Black bean dip with crackers and veggies
- Fun-size candy bar and a handful of almonds
- Popcorn with nutritional yeast and chili powder
- Frozen waffle topped with peanut butter and berries
- Doritos, string cheese, sliced bell peppers
- Tuna salad with whole grain crackers
Final Thoughts and Next Steps
I hope this post has given you some inspiration for new snack ideas that you can enjoy in a way that feels both satisfying and nourishing.
Snacking doesn’t have to be a source of guilt or anxiety. By tuning into your hunger and fullness cues, incorporating gentle nutrition, and honoring your cravings, you can create a positive and satisfying snacking experience that works for you.
If you’re interested in learning more about Intuitive Eating, check out some of these other blog posts on Intuitive Eating and Body Image.
- Intuitive Eating for Weight Loss [Everything you Need to Know]
- 100+ Intuitive and Mindful Eating Affirmations to Help Combat Negative Self-Talk
- Intuitive Eating Before and After [What to Expect When You Start Intuitive Eating]
- Looking for an Intuitive Eating Coach? Read this!
- Why Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work: An Expert’s Perspective
- The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating [A Complete Guide + Free PDF]
- Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale [+Free PDF]
If you’re looking for personalized support, I offer one on one nutrition and Intuitive Eating counseling services to help you find food freedom. My one-on-one services are tailored to your specific needs and concerns. We work to develop a plan together that will help you achieve your goals and fit into your life. Whether you’re looking to break free from the diet cycle, overcome emotional or binge eating, or stop hating your body, I’m here to help.
Kristin is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics with a concentration in Biology and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She has experience conducting systematic reviews and writing and evaluating scientific literature in peer-reviewed journals. She has a goal of making evidence-based nutrition information accessible and easy to understand.