Nicole Recine RN MSN CDE
I am often asked about snacking while on a ketogenic diet. Snacking is an interesting topic. There are a lot of factors to consider when making recommendations, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Context matters. In this article, I will discuss the topic of snacking on a ketogenic diet, and provide a few suggestions for snack options in cases where snacking may be indicated.
Breaking The Bad Snack Habit
Many individuals come to a ketogenic way of eating from diets where they were eating meals and snacks throughout the day. You may have heard the conventional wisdom that it is important to eat small meals throughout the day in order to keep your metabolism elevated. You’ve become afraid to go more than a few hours without food, and always have an emergency snack nearby. You may get cranky or even jittery if you have to go for long periods without food. When on a higher carbohydrate diet, these feelings are common. Eating a high carbohydrate diet causes blood sugar variations that lead to feelings of hunger within a few hours of eating. Blood sugar, insulin, and glucagon regulate themselves in a way that leads to metabolic flexibility while on a ketogenic diet and many of these feelings subside. Your body no longer needs the constant influx of carbohydrate to keep blood sugar levels stable. Once adapted to a ketogenic diet, you should be easily able to go 6-8 hours between meals without snacks in between. This is a sign of a healthy metabolism.
Why Are You Snacking?
Nonetheless, once you have transitioned to a ketogenic diet, you may find yourself wanting a snack. First, ask yourself why you are snacking. Often, snacking is a habit rather than a true need for food. Eating because it is a certain time, because you are watching a movie, because you are bored, or because you always eat something before bed are not good reasons to eat a snack. Are you eating out of boredom? Is it in response to stress? Reasons need to be examined. Ideally, you will be satisfied eating 2-3 meals per day once adapted to a ketogenic diet, depending on what works best for you personally. If you are truly hungry between meals, it is likely that you are under-eating at meals, and that is the first thing to fix.
Sometimes snacking is appropriate. There are times when life happens and you may miss a meal, or may not be able to eat when expected. There are some individuals that are highly active and require more food than they can consume in 2-3 standard meals. I am not saying snacks are prohibited, but they should be consumed in response to a true need for food rather than out of habit, in response to emotions, or as a form of entertainment. It is important to be honest with yourself.
Keto Snack Options
What are some good snack options on a ketogenic diet? First, as always, stick with real food. There are many companies that have created “keto-appropriate” snack foods such as cookies, wraps, protein bars, shakes, candies, and desserts. I never recommend these types of products. There is never a need for highly processed food products, and these types of foods tend to create problematic eating patterns. Plus, there are many real-food snack options that are readily available. Choose foods that are a combination of protein and fat with as few carbohydrates as possible. Keto snack ideas include:
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- 1-2 ounces of cheese
- 1-2 ounces of nuts or nut butter (watch portions)
- Beef Jerky
- Meat Sticks
- Cold Cuts
- Pork Rinds
- ½ of an Avocado
- Sausages or hot dogs
- Canned Sardines, Herring or Anchovies
- Liver Sausage
USWM offers many of these keto snack items made from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals. Their sugar-free meat sticks and pemmican make great, non-perishible snacks. They’ve also recently started carrying raw nut butters!