Spend some time around kids, or your household pets, and you’ll see that frequent grazing is the instinctual way to eat over the course of the day.
We certainly evolved as frequent foragers, not meal eaters, and frequent snacking isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If the foods you choose are appropriate, and if you are truly hungry, it can be a healthy habit.
We usually get hungry about every three to four hours, so several smaller meals spread throughout the day may actually prevent you from eating too much at meal time. Snacks should have some healthy carbs—like fruit, veggies, whole grains (like crackers)—along with some protein (like nuts, soy protein products or nonfat dairy foods).
The afternoon stretch between lunch and dinner can be a difficult time. Many people try to tough it out but end up eating too much at dinner. Rather than a small snack, try having a ‘second lunch’—something a little more substantial like a protein shake, a cup of cottage cheese with some fruit, or a low calorie frozen meal. Then you can do your cutting back at dinner time.
If after-dinner snacking is a problem for you, try brushing your teeth after dinner. It works as a great signal to stop eating.