Now that you understand what snacking is, what drives our urge to snack, and some of the important principles of snacking for success, it’s time to figure out your best snacking strategy. You can find the other parts of this series in previous emails, or here: Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

To create a successful snacking strategy for yourself consider the following:

Pre-plan snacks to match your hunger:

As discussed, letting yourself get overly hungry is detrimental to your health goals. Matching your energy needs to your snacks is your best strategy. And when planning, ensure that your snack is enough. Don’t expect a bite to do the job of a meal!

Look at your normal daily eating schedule and how long it is between your planned meals, noting when you could use a snack to keep from becoming overly hungry. Then consider your normal activities. For instance if you plan to exercise before dinner you may need a snack to sustain you through that.

For many people, breakfast is small or non-existent and the time between lunch and dinner is long. There may also be a long period of time after dinner before bed that could involve exercise or housework. Therefore, for many, snacks can be useful mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and possibly also in the evening. Contrary to what you might think, there is no wrong time to snack.

If you find that your hunger and snacking urges occur mainly in the second half of the day, it’s a good idea to experiment with eating more in the earlier part of the day. That is, try a larger breakfast, lunch, and/or mid-morning snack ensuring that you’re getting enough protein as well as fat and carbohydrate.

If you find yourself with predictable mid-afternoon sugar cravings, try scheduling a carb heavy, emotionally satisfying snack.

Allow space for change:

Ate more than expected for lunch and not hungry for the mid-afternoon snack? Skip it or downsize. Feel hungrier than usual for no apparent reason? Add in a snack on the fly or increase the size of one that’s already planned. Dinner delayed? May need to eat something ahead to stave off starvation.

Balance your snacks to match your physical needs:

Usually this means to include protein and fat with your carbs as this is the best combination for long term energy. Think of adding some nuts or nut butter to round out sweets, or some cheese with the crackers. If your brain power is lagging a small snack of pure carbohydrate can give a quick boost. A few crackers by themself, a handful of pretzels, or even a small amount of hard candy can work well.

Ensure that your snacks are emotionally satisfying:

Snacks offer a time to satisfy emotional as well as physical needs. While good nutrition is important, make sure that your snacks are also pleasurable. If you ignore the satisfaction factor you risk ending up with cravings that can lead to unwanted eating and binging.

We need a combination of “work” and “play” foods so don’t expect a boiled egg to fulfill the desire for chocolate.Consider that eating a cookie when you want a cookie can keep you from eating a whole bag of cookies later.

Consider your other physical and emotional needs:

Food isn’t your only human need of course. But it’s often used an easy or socially accepted substitute for other needs. Stress induced snacking is a real thing. Therefore, investigating what it is you really need throughout the day will yield many benefits.

Food works to soothe and distract only in the short term and thus eating urges will keep coming back regardless of fullness if another need is unmet. If you find yourself with repeated cravings or often standing in the kitchen, take some moments to consider what else is going on. It may be that a work break, nap, self-compassion, social support, or something else other than food is needed.


I found splitting my lunch into two and having the second half in the mid-afternoon to be life changing. Bags of cookies, candy, or chips held no further appeal. Others have found that changing their breakfast or dinner was life changing.

There’s no right or wrong, only what works best for your needs. Try different eating rhythms, meal and snack sizes, and experiment with different foods.

Eliminate guilt:

Eating is the appropriate response to hunger. Your body needs and deserves satisfying meals and snacks. There’s no shame in snacking or grazing. Do what works for you. And whatever you eat, do so with awareness and pleasure so that you get the full experience. If you find yourself eating in unwanted ways use self-compassion instead of self-judgement.

Bottom line: Snacks are awesome:

Snacks are a powerful positive tool in healthy eating. I hope this series on snacking has prompted you to feel better about your snacking as well as to encourage you to think deeper about how and when to incorporate snacking into your life in ways that are healthful and pleasurable.