From Whole30 Headmistress Melissa Hartwig Urban, who is literally eating a snack right now
One of the most common questions I hear from those new to the Whole30 is about snacking. “I know we’re not supposed to snack… but seriously, can I snack?” Let’s clear up the facts about snacks on the Whole30.
The Foundation: #Science
In my first book, It Starts With Food, you’ll find the groundwork for the “no snacking” recommendation on pages 185-187. It’s based on the idea that leaving enough time between meals (3-5 hours) lets your hormones do their job; using fat from your diet AND your body as fuel to keep you energized, focused, and happy. When you snack too frequently, you’re giving your body energy all the time, which means your body is less inclined to burn the stored stuff. (You can find a summary on page 79 in The Whole30, too.)
However, it’s important to remember:
- This is only a recommendation, not a RULE. (See the difference here.) You can eat nothing but snacks, and as long as everything is compatible, you’re doing the Whole30.
- In the beginning, it may be hard to get your meal size just right. In that case, snacks can be helpful! (We never want you to starve.)
- I fully expect you’ll need to “snack” at other points during the program, too. (Emergencies happen! Be prepared.)
- Kids and those who are pregnant or nursing are the exception to the “no snacking” recommendation. (See “Special Populations” inThe Whole30, or visit Whole30 Families for more.)
In summary, I don’t want you grazing like a gazelle, prowling through the pantry looking for something sweet every night after dinner, or snacking out of boredom.
But sometimes, snacking is necessary! So if you’re gonna snack, what are your best options? First, it’s more helpful to think of a snack as a mini-meal. The word “snack” in general brings to mind a “sweet treat,” but what we’re after here is a nutrient-dense, satisfying food designed to tide you over until your next meal.
Your mini-meal template could go one of two ways:
- A true mini-meal, containing protein, fat, and carbs. Ex: a smaller portion of leftover dinner; a Chomps Snack Stick + handful of chopped veggies + handful of cashews; an egg + veggie muffin.
- A mini-meal containing at least TWO macronutrients. Ex: an Applegate hot dog + an orange (protein + carbs); carrots dipped in Primal Kitchen Ranch (carbs + fat); a can of Safe Catch tuna mixed with homemade mayo (protein + fat).
Here’s what you shouldn’t eat: An apple. Not that an apple isn’t Whole30, or delicious… it’s just not very satisfying. And if the point of a mini-meal is to see you through from lunch until dinner, you want it to actually see you through! (Carbs by themselves are the least satisfying of all the macronutrients.)
To Snack or Not to Snack?
To help you decide whether a mini-meal is the right call for your Whole30, here are some sample scenarios.
YES, go have a snack!
- It’s early in your program, and you’re still trying to figure out how big to make your meals.
- You’re stuck somewhere (business meeting, travel, errands) without access to a real meal.
- You’re really active, and need a pre- or post-workout meal or mini-meal. (See page 241-244 in It Starts With Food)
- You work really long days, and just three meals doesn’t cut it.
- You’re feeding a kid, growing a baby, or nursing one
- You’re legitimately hungry (for whatever reason), not just craving
Skip the snack
- You’re bored, anxious, lonely, or tired (but not actually hungry)
- It’s X:00 and you always eat just a little something at X:00 (this is habit, not hunger!)
- You ALWAYS need a snack between lunch and dinner (make lunch bigger, or add a fourth full-sized meal)
- You’re eating one within 2 hours of bed every night (make dinner bigger, or realize this is habitual more than true hunger
Now that you have an idea of where, when, and how snacking might be appropriate on your Whole30, it’s time to prepare! (The last thing you want is to be caught hungry without a compatible option.)
- Our broad collection of Whole30 Approved on-the-go and emergency foods are great for supporting longer or more active days, unexpected changes to your schedule, or days when you don’t have control over your schedule (like when you’re traveling).
- This Emergency Food 101 is a great place to start planning your emergency and snack food stash, and gives you TONS of ideas for the perfect Whole30 mini-meal or snack. But the easiest way to always have compatible mini-meals on hand is to always make a little extra! Leftovers make great snacks, especially since there’s no prep involved (minus a little reheating, maybe).
- Finally, keep a few of our Whole30 Approved Great Value Walmart frozen bowls, Grandcestors meals, or True Fare meals in your freezer for those “need something NOW” moments at work, home, school, or your hotel.
And there you have it; your guide to all things snacking (ahem, mini-mealing) on the Whole30! Share your family’s favorite snacks with our community, or get inspiration for your next Whole30, with the hashtag #whole30snack on Instagram.