The other day while I was pining over In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, I toasted a couple slices of carrot bread to eat when I came across these words: "According to the Harvard economists' calculations, the bulk of the calories we've added to our diet over the past twenty years has come in the form of snacks," (p. 191).
Can someone say irony?
I did finish my toast regardless, and in fairness I had skipped lunch because I had a late breakfast. And it was carrot toast NOT potato chips! But still, Michael Pollan's message radiated through me: Food is meant to be eaten communally at meals, not every couple hours, alone.
I will be the first to admit, I am a very guilty snacker. And if yesterday was any indication, it will be a hard road to break that habit, too. It started late morning when I had to man a recruitment table for an organization I work with at my alma mater. I ran into an old friend manning another table covered in heart-shaped lollipops to lure unsuspecting recruits to them. Without even thinking about my goal to eat healthier, I took one and ate it! Then, they had a snack table and I eyed some scotcheroos. I thought to myself, My dog ate the leftover scotcheroos last week and I never got one. So I went to the table and got one. And some popcorn. Then I went back later and got another scotcheroo.
Then I stopped at the store on the way home to pick up the loaded baked potato bread they promised they were making yesterday and saw they had hummus on sale, so I grabbed a container. I came home and ate two pieces of carrot bread (this time with hummus). Then I ate the leftover tilapia ninety minutes before dinner! Then after dinner, I grabbed the hummus at the corn tortilla chips and ate again.
Yesterday was bad. But it certainly wasn't my worst day. And all things considered, I had skipped lunch again (I think I'm seeing a pattern here), and at least the second half of my snacking wasn't garbage food.
On the other hand, this may be the one thing I don't entirely agree with Michael Pollan on. Yes, I snacked too much yesterday. Yes, most snack food is junk food. Yes, it is much harder to control portions. But I thought it was better for your body if you ate several smaller, evenly spaced mini-meals throughout the day?
I think it's safe to say that I'm not going to give up snacking. Life does not always give us the opportunity to eat three square meals, and sometimes you need to get by with a couple midday snacks. However, I do need to be more mindful of what is in my snacks and how much snacking I do.
Perhaps the worst snacking I do is at work, and with good reason. I work long (up to 10) hours at the restaurant and my break is at the very beginning of my shift nine out of ten times. So to not snack, I would have to go the majority of my long shift without food while I watch other people scarf down right in front of me. What's worse is that free food is pretty readily available. Anytime a cook messes up an order, it generally gets put on the break table for us to devour (and let me tell you, our cooks are far from perfect!). Anytime we get new menu items (almost always plural), they make it for us to try. And to top it off, my workplace does not serve organic, all-vegan food. Or really anything close that at all. And most of it is cooked in oil.
So how do I escape probable tragedy? I could start by bringing my own snacks. I'm working on having more fresh fruits and veggies at the house, which are pretty good snack foods if you ask me. I typically bring my own "lunch," so adding a few extra goodies to snack on shouldn't be too hard. I work later today; we will test this hypothesis and see what happens.
As for at home, I really just need to monitor my impulse eating and try to eat something filling (aka not chips and hummus!) so I'm not tempted to go back to the kitchen for more. Probably the hardest part for me will be distinguishing between meals and snacks. Pollan strongly encourages eating with others, which can be difficult when my husband and I are on different schedules. He usually leaves before me and gets home after me during the week, especially on my days off, so I'm at home without supervision during those long hours between breakfast and dinner (since I seem to have this bad habit of skipping lunch). I keep trying to justify my snacking as a late lunch, but it's really not. Not the way I'm doing it. Maybe I just need to find a lunch buddy who will eat a late lunch with me. Or I need to sit at the table and set out exactly what I'm going to eat, instead of scrounging around until I think I'm full.
Hmm... more on that later I think.