This post is long overdue. I’ve been talking to anyone who will listen (mostly my clients and followers on social media & of course my boyfriend Eric LOLZ) about how amazing snack plates are as a tool in your intuitive eating toolbox. Hear me out. Snack plates are a GAMECHANGING way to develop a healthier relationship with food. Here are my top 5 reasons:
- They’re non-committal
- Limitless options encourage spontaneity and curiosity with food
- No rules!
- Easy and quick AF
- Helps to find the “gray area”
Snack plates have less of a “beginning” and “end” type of vibe as opposed to a regular meal. Which means it may be easier to reconnect to your own hunger and fullness cues. With snack plates, there might be less fear or shame around getting seconds or less guilt about leaving food on your plate once you’re satisfied.
You can eat some, leave it, and come back to it easily. I also recommend leaving the snack items out on the counter while you nibble on your snack plate. It’s such a hassle to go back into the fridge or pantry and get all your ingredients back out, and we don’t want hassle to get in the way of you nourishing your body sufficiently! This is a great opportunity to practice unconditional permission to eat. You can leave everything out knowing you can always go back for seconds if you need some more, or alternatively if you don’t finish everything on your plate and some of it can be saved, you can put it away and store it for a later time.
Limitless options encourage spontaneity and curiosity with food.
Snack plates allow you to eat a variety of foods with all kinds of flavors, textures and vibes. We’re talking spicy, salty, sweet, savory, crunchy, veggies, fruits, cheeses, nuts, meats, pickles – the list is limitless! When you’re coming off of a life-sucking diet or meal plan (blegh) you may feel super rigid about what you can/can’t eat. Snack plates offer an opportunity to (in a non-commital way!) start exploring a greater variety of foods again. When you eat with the absence of food rules and allow yourself to get curious around food (instead of fearful), you may just be shocked at what you do or don’t like and which foods are actually most satisfying.
This point lends itself nicely to the concept of habituation in Intuitive Eating which basically means getting used to a food you previously binged/felt out of control with. Most of the time this binge/out of control feeling is the result of restriction. What’s the best way to make SURE you feel wonky around food? Restrict it. But the reality is that it’s normal and expected to have cravings. Most human bodies desire different sensations from food at different times: salty, sweet, fun, savory foods, etc. You can only hold your breath (restrict) for so long… and you eventually come up for air (aka eat the food) and may unintentionally “overdo” it in your excitement/splurge/f*ck it mentality.
But really, these out-of-control eating experiences happen because you “underdid” it for so long. You cut out that food or food group and your body responded with a pendulum swing to the extreme other side. Make sense?
All this is to remind you: in order to experience a more peaceful, balanced, empowering relationship with food I recommend you eat the problem/fear foods that have made you feel anxious in the past. Snack plates are a way to incorporate and experiment with that food in an environment ALONGSIDE other foods (that may feel more safe) while also helping to fill you up and balance out your intake among all the food groups.
I’m an Aquarius and type 3 enneagram which means I HATE rules (and small talk lol) so this feature of snack plates REALLY lights me up. Combine whatever you want, eat however much you want, try a bunch of different foods, try new foods, whatever! The best part of a snack plate is the inherent freedom that lies therein. Don’t have a plate? Throw it on a paper towel! Feeling fancy? Use a cheese board!
NO TIME RULES
Snack plates can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, dessert, at 3am after a night out- they work at ALL times!
NO SENSE RULES
It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you! You can eat pickles, chocolate, and carrots all on the same plate if you want to.
NO COMBINING RULES
Try the peanut butter with a raspberry! Or the cheese with a jalapeno jelly spread! You can feel free to try out different food combos that you may not otherwise. If you don’t like it, don’t keep eating it! That simple.
Can you tell that I love this aspect of snack plates? The absence of rules makes me feel so excited and free and inspired, and these are exactly the kinds of feelings I want for everyone to be able to have around food. Since rules are the cornerstone of most diets or eating plans, I think I have a special place in my heart for snack plates because they seem to say, “f*ck you, rules!” with every delicious bite.
Easy and quick AF
For all the busy people out there, snacks plates are a genius solution. They can be thrown together in less than two minutes, making them an easy snack or meal on a busy day. My favorite thing to do is throw together a snack plate and take it with me into the office to munch on while I write blog posts (this is the current scene as I type!), check in with clients, make calls, etc.
One of the most common complaints or questions that dietitians everywhere get from their followers or clients is something along these lines: “Help! I don’t have enough time to prepare healthy meals and snacks!” And believe me, we get it! Just because we are nutrition professionals does not give us magic extra time in the day to spend hours laboring over meals cooked from scratch- I wish! In fact, this is actually one of the things I love sharing on social media- what REAL eating looks like. It means sometimes getting take-out, sometimes cooking at home, sometimes throwing together EPIC snack plates, sometimes purchasing ready-to-eat items from the grocery store. But the bottom line is that snack plates are the solution to the busy person’s dilemma.
- They are literally the easiest way to “cook at home” without actually spending any time cooking.
- They travel well (you may need to purchase a good container with small compartments for dips and dividers to keep everything separate).
- They can fit whatever mood you are feeling. Fresh, crunchy, lots of bright-colored produce? Check. Nutty, creamy with a side of spicy? Check. And on and on… you get the idea.
Helps to find the “gray” area
Not only is gray my fave color, but it’s my fave part of helping a new client develop a healthier relationship with food. Most often, they’re coming fresh off #dietculture where they only allowed themselves to eat at certain times (intermittent fasting), certain foods (paleo), cut out carbs (keto), only thought of food in terms of points or calories consumed (weight watchers), or the dreaded stoplight analogy from my nemesis, Noom (the biggest gaslighting diet company that says it’s not a diet company). Most often, these diets are followed by the “f*ck it” phase where they eat past comfortable fullness or have out-of-control eating experiences with certain foods (think the stuff diets encourage you not to eat: pizza, cupcakes, brownies, and the like.) Sound like black and white thinking to you?
This on again/off again mentality is life crushing, not to mention super difficult on your body. With intuitive eating, we create a relationship with food that’s more neutral, gray, balanced, and empowering. Snack plates help you rediscover the gray area with food by presenting BOTH veggies AND chocolate on the same plate. Both are satisfying and nutritious in different ways – sometimes for physical health, sometimes for emotional health. Neither is “better” than the other, just different. You don’t choose between “eating healthy” and “having a cheat day”… instead you just: eat.
You eat foods.
You eat a variety of foods.
You eat a variety of foods that are satisfying and nourishing and filling and provide your body with a combination of valuable nutrients.
The snack plate is a summation of all the best parts of intuitive eating, in my opinion. You check in with your body, choose what sounds good, eat a variety of foods, pair different nutrients together for a balanced plate, keep eating until you’re comfortably full, take loving and respectful care of your body, and learn to enjoy eating again and trust your body.
If you’re at a stage in your health journey where you feel lost, confused, frustrated, fed-up, or any set of conflicting emotions, I would love to partner with you and untangle things together. You can read more about the kind of work I do here and schedule a free intro call when you’re ready to chat!