SNACKING. When we think of snacking, many times it is attached to the stigma of weight gain and less healthy choices, munching on chips, cookies, etc. In actuality, snacking can be a beneficial, even crucial part of your day to day healthy eating lifestyle. Many times, when you maintain a fairly normalized eating schedule (every 3-4 hours), it can promote a more efficient metabolism by maintaining your blood sugar control. In addition, if you include balanced snacks at timed points between your meals throughout the day, you can moderate your hunger levels to prevent overeating at any one meal or snack. This being said, all snacks are not created equal.
The following 5 tips will help you ensure that you are choosing healthy snacks and including them wisely in your healthy eating lifestyle:
1. Choose a snack with a carb/protein balance. By choosing a snack that is balanced with approximately one serving of protein and one serving of carbs (preferably whole grain/starchy vegetable/fruit/complex carbs), it provides your body with a balance of quick energy and longevity of blood sugar stability. By combining a protein (can be a fat if necessary) with your carb, it slows digestion with helps maintain your satiety for longer. In addition, a perfect carb/protein balance is ideal in post exercise recovery! Examples of well balanced snacks include: A medium apple with nut butter; a cup of carrots or a handful of whole grain crackers with hummus; string cheese and a piece of fruit; plain Greek yogurt with fruit or granola; mixed nuts with no-sugar added dried fruit; and, in a pinch, a protein bar (choose these by looking for brands with only a few ingredients and not a bunch of added sugar e.g. RX or Lara bars).
2. Time your snacks wisely between meals. When timing out your snacks, if you know you are going to have longer than 3-4 hours between your meals, include a snack. This prevents the ravenous hunger that causes us to eat everything in our site and feel “hangry” until it hits our system. Other times to include a snack are-post workout (unless you will be eating a meal directly afterward) and if you are going to be staying awake significantly more hours after eating dinner (this can prevent that pesky late night snacking).
3. Portion your snacks out in advance/choose non-pre-made if possible. When you buy pre-packaged foods that come in boxes or large containers, re-package your snacks into the correct portion sizes when you buy the food so you have plenty of grab and go options. In addition, this can prevent bringing the whole box or bag with you and, next thing you know, you’ve finished all of it. Play to human laziness, if you can easily grab the correct portion size and you have to go back to the fridge/pantry to eat more, you are more likely to choose not to go back for seconds.
4. Differentiate between snacking to moderate physical hunger and emotional snacking. Sometimes we snack when we aren’t even hungry due to boredom, stress, happiness, etc. Make sure your snacks are scheduled throughout the day to allow for healthy snacking times and portion sizes. In addition, keep some sliced, fresh veggies on hand so if you cannot quite fight the urge to graze, you have a healthy, minimal caloric option available. Be mindfulness and develop an awareness of whether you are deciding to have a snack for emotion or physical hunger reasons to also help curb your decisions.
5. If you are going to choose a less healthy snack, eat it in the correct portion sizes. Going along with emotional eating, sometimes we want a snack that will satisfy either our sweet or savory tooth. You do not have to eliminate these types of snacks, but rather choose one time a day or, even better, only a few times a week, that you allocate for less healthy snack options eg ice cream, cookies, chips etc. When you choose these options, make sure they are in a proper portion size and protein/carb balance. This allows you to minimize guilt around less healthy snacks and decreases the risk of binging on these items as they are already part of your healthy eating lifestyle. Therefore, you can knowingly look forward to/wait for your next less healthy snack opportunity without feeling deprived.
Improving your snacking habits may be just what you need to help you gain that extra boost in energy, minimize ravenous eating and hangry tendencies, decreasing grazing behaviors, and even continue on your weight management journey.
I hope you enjoyed these 5 tips to begin improving your healthy snacking choices and would love to hear any of your feedback or other ideas you use for healthy snacking!
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Wishing you a week of energy, healthy snacking, and wellness,
-Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”