Snacking is part of our way of life here in America. When comparing our culture with other countries, like say Europe and Asia, rarely do people snack on the foods prevalent here like cookies, chip and preservative filled junk food. In fact, you won’t even find these products on the shelves of grocery stores.
In our house, I avoid grocery shopping for any type of snacks as much as possible. I am more aware than ever about how snacking takes a toll on the digestion system. My husband, on the other hand hunts for snacks in the pantry and basement. Yeah, he knows a lot of Ayurveda for someone not in the field, but still he always feels the need to munch on something throughout the day.
Interestingly, many western diets encourage so called grazing to maintain a high metabolism. In Ayurveda, the opposite is quite true. Snacking is okay for children and pregnant women, but for adults it should be minimized as much as possible. The argument can be, well what if the snacks are healthy? Regardless of how healthy the snacks are or are not, we first need to understand how snacking affects the digestive system.
As per Ayurveda, snacking is not healthy nor does it boost the metabolism. It take 3-4 hours for food to fully digest and if we interrupt this process by further adding more food to it, then it slows the process down. This results in malabsorption, as some of the food is digested. The remaining food sits around that eventually becomes ama, sludge and toxins. Ama is the main cause of disease as this heavy, sticky, gooey sludge clogs of the channels in the body. Without the bodily channels filtering, processing, delivering and receiving as necessary to function, this ultimately results in disease.
The only exception to snacking is fruit. Fruit eaten an hour before or after meals is considered okay. If you do crash at 4pm and need something, eat a piece of fruit.
The first thing you may notice after you stop snacking is weight loss. I have had weight fluctuations all my life, but without snacking for the first time I am able to maintain a healthy weight, almost effortlessly. I lost all and more of my pregnancy weight by eliminating snacking. Once you do stop snacking, you will notice how much mental clarity and energy you have.
Eat Only When Hungry
I mentioned earlier that my husband always needs something to munch on. The interesting part is on weekends, when there is something cooked and ready for brunch and dinner, he tends to rarely snack at all. For those like him who tend to have a large appetite, you may not be eating well at meal times hence snacking afterwards until the next meal. In Ayurveda we suggest to eat:
- a semi-light breakfast around 7-9am. This should be enough food to hold you to lunch. For those that are not hungry at all, do not eat. In Ayurveda, we suggest to eat only when hungry.
- heavy lunch around 12-2pm. This should be your largest meal of the day, it is when the digestive fire in the stomach is the strongest and can digest larger amounts of food. Also, you want to eat enough to hold you until dinner without snacking.
- If needed, eat a piece of fruit
- light dinner before 7pm or sunset. Keep it light, as you would be going to sleep in a few hours.