Here’s How to Know If That Snack You’re Eating Is Actually a Legit Meal

Photo: Getty Images/Mapodile
In this age of I'm-too-busy-for-an-actual-meal, we have become a society of snackers. (Shout out to everyone literally eating a snack right now as you read this.) Walk into any drugstore and there's at least half an aisle devoted to protein bars. Even avocado toast has transformed into a gym bag-friendly morsel. There are so many snack options that it honestly wouldn't be that hard to live off snack products alone, instead of taking the time to piece together an actual meal.

The lines between snacks and meals is definitely blurred. To help bring some clarity, I called up Jaime Schehr, NP, RD, a nationally recognized expert in integrative medicine and nutrition. Simply put, she explains that a meal is meant to fill someone up longer than a snack. "A meal is meant to fill someone up for at least three hours and is going to have the macronutrients we need, which unless you are doing keto [or another very specific eating plan], that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fiber," Dr. Schehr explains, adding that this primarily looks like something veggie-based paired with a protein.

"What I tell my clients is that if you have breakfast at 8 a.m., your meal should be comprehensive enough so that it fills you up until at least 11 a.m.," Dr. Schehr says. If not, it likely isn't hitting those macronutrient buckets she details. This doesn't mean snacks don't serve a purpose; they definitely do. But Dr. Schehr drops a major truth bomb when talking about snacks: they're not meant to fill you up. "A snack is meant to help [bridge the gap] from being a little bit hungry so you don't feel uncomfortable waiting until your next meal, which might be a couple hours away," Dr. Schehr says.

Simply put, snacks don't hit all the macronutrient requirements the way a meal does. "A snack may be a handful of nuts or popcorn, but if your snack is a piece of grilled chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, well, that's a meal," she says.

So apparently woman can't live on snacks alone. No matter how much they start crowding grocery stores, they'll always play backup to what we really all need: legit, rounded out meals.

If reading about snacks has you craving one now, here are 10 healthy ones to consider making. Plus, why mindless eating can feel so, darn satisfying.

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