It seems to me that snacking is a cultural phenomenon that isn't particularly good for us ... and not particularly paleo. Paleo snacks are certainly an improvement over the stuff in the vending machine, but I'd think that once you've adapted to paleo, it shouldn't be necessary.
Don't most of us have sufficient fat and/or glycogen stores that should carry us over from one meal to the next? Isn't digestion helped by letting one meal properly digest before eating again?
Some obvious places where snacking might be useful is for those doing lots and lots of physical activity, or those with funky schedules (e.g., long flights w/o proper meals).
So tell me: what's your hack on snacking?
The only hack I have is to eat the right foods. Eat something if you're hungry. Labels like snack, breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. are the cultural phenomenon, along with the scheduled times of day we eat.
I've recently started researching this for my master's thesis, so in a few months I'll be able to give yu a very good answer.
In the meantime, I'll say that I don't think people should snack, or even break up their meals into 6 small ones throughout the day. However, there are studies that suggest both ways are better.
Some people are against labeling things as a snack or a meal (like I was), but here is an interesting look at differences in glucose and insulin levels before eating to differentiate before a meal or a snack.
The best candidates for the definition of a meal appeared to be a high motivation to eat associated with preprandial declines in plasma glucose and insulin concentrations....
In conclusion, we show that for eating occasions composed of similar food items and occurring at a similar interval between lunch and dinner, there was a linear decrease in glucose and in insulin concentrations before the eating occasion associated with a high hunger score.
Not all that shocking, but I think people who need to snack have impaired gluconeogenic abilities in their liver and are unable raise their blood sugar appropriately. If there was some kind of protocol to help reset (ahem) their internal signaling they might be able to have increased hormonal sensitivity.
We all have sufficient fat stores that should be able to get us the 4-5 hours between meals without becoming a ravaging lunatic.
I looked at your question from both sides--in the beginning, I imagine Grok and family stopped to nibble anything edible as they moved around. I also imagine they either had prime metabolism or didn't last long.
Today, those who eat most often seem to be those who are out of control or desperately trying to gain control. Everyone I've known with a good body profile was relatively indifferent to food even when there was a potluck spread at the office.
My schedule and activity level lead me to have 4 eating episodes. Since going paleo, I've dropped from 6 small snacks to 4. I wake up early to exercise - I'm also a part time part time personal trainer and have to teach or train in the early AM. So, I'm hungry for breakfast around 7 or 8. I have lunch midday and a "small meal" around 4 - I eat dinner late - around 9 after my bf finishes night class. This isn't ideal for many, but it works for me. On the weekends when my schedule is more flexible, I tend not to need to snack as much. I've considered playing around with my schedule - and I'd be curious about my glucose levels, but this seems to work for me now.
It's true, there's evidence both for and against the many mini-meals practice, and, by extension, for and against "snacking." I once bought into the 4-6 small meals model, based on Barry Sears' rather compelling metaphor that the approach approximates a "drip system" thus minimizing sharp insulin spikes. Metaphors can be persuasive but that doesn't make them veridically true, nor should it immunize them from serious scrutiny.
As for myself: currently enjoying substantial success via IF (Berkhan 16/8, two meals between 1pm and 9pm). I experience hunger primarily in the 1-2 hour prior to breaking my daily 16-hour fast, yet that sense of "being hungry" lacks the urgency I used to experience. I think the food timing cycle partly explains this salutary change, but I think it's also mental/psychological, and I say that not to minimize that factor, the way we often do when we ask, "But are you sure it's not just psychological?" To the contrary, I sense I have learned, or more accurately, am still learning, a new relationship to the shifting polarity of satiated/hungry. Such that: I feel satiated most of the time these days. But not the "satiated" that was closer feeling filled up, gorged, after a meal, sometimes to the point of stupor.
I could almost say: "Eating doesn't matter much any more," to which I would quickly append: at least not in the way it used to. That is, I don't think about, look forward to, plan "eating" (beyond stopping at the store for provisions and making appropriate advance plans for the next meal I'll be preparing). It feels deliciously sane. Let me add this significant detail. I used to be a long-distance runner, and so got used to feeding/fueling pre- and post-event. I'd go on a training run, knowing I'd have some appropriate eating to do after the workout, to restore glycogen and all the rest. Looking back, I spent a lot of time thinking about that process. Also spent a lot of time snacking, though I tended to call it "grazing" and I was felt good about my food choices. These days on IF: I work out (lifting, sometimes followed by short run) in a fasted state, and then have my first of two meals after working out. So, yes, still eating post-workout. But there's something splendidly different about placing eating inside an 8-hour window, keeping it focused in that way — and very much enjoying all the tastes — yet knowing I'll be done with it when the 8-hour period is over, and I won't be "hungry" again for 14-16 hours.
So, anyhow. I suspect we will continue to discover that meal timing and meal frequency are two relevant factors among many, including caloric load and macronutrients, and all the other usual suspects under frequent discussion here at PH. It continues to appear to this observer that Life is unapologetically multifactorial. Not to say some factors arn't far more important than others, nor to argue for some blithe "let's not get too excited by any one dimension, because everything's connected" premise.
Still, kind of makes sense not get too excited by any one dimension, because eveything's connected...
I don't know that there really is any one right answer to your question--at least not with the research/knowledge currently available. Studies seem to show both can work.
On a personal level I've never been a big snacker, but I used to always need a snack between lunch and dinner. Since going paleo that happens very rarely and usually I can look back and see that my lunch did not have sufficient fat or protein. I find that if I am eating well-balanced full meals I don't get hungry until it's time for the next meal.
When my hubby, parents, brother, and me all went Paleo initially we were eating a lot! I think it takes about 3-6 weeks for the body to learn to use the fat as fuel instead of glucose.
After a month we stabilized and stopped snacking, and cut back even our portions of meals.
We were snacking quite a bit on the following:
3) cold cuts, jerky
4) fruit (only with fat like nuts, cheese or heavy cream)
5) unsweetened almond milk
6) 85% or higher dark chocolate
9) tuna, sardines