Why Snack? There are actually some good reasons to snack. For example, some people (especially young kids, older adults, athletes and pregnant women to name a few) may not have stomachs big enough to fit all the calories and nutrition they need by eating just three meals per day. So this brings about a good starting point: do you want a snack or do you need a snack? You can answer this by figuring out if you are actually hungry. Many of us snack because something triggered the desire and it’s not because your stomach is growling; rather, a coworker leaves cupcakes in the break room, your spouse makes microwave popcorn to watch a movie, or you just find yourself mindlessly staring into the pantry or refrigerator. If you’re not quite sure which category (want or need) that you fall into, drink a full (at least 8 ounce) glass of water, do something else for 10 to 15 minutes (away from the kitchen), and see how you feel then.
When to Snack. If you are going to snack, it’s a good idea to ask yourself how long it will be before your next meal. If you will be going more than four or five hours between meals, a smart snack may help you avoid getting too hungry to the point where you may not make a healthy meal choice or find yourself overeating at the meal. It’s also useful to snack before and/or after a workout, depending on when the last time you ate and similar rules regarding time apply. A well-timed snack before a workout can help to keep you from crashing during the workout especially if you haven’t eaten in several hours or are prone to low blood sugar levels. A snack after a workout, especially if you won’t be eating a regular meal within an hour or so can help to replenish your fuel stores.
What Makes a Smart Snack? Hmm...this brings about a dilemma. Although snacks have evolved over the years into the packaged food empire that we see when we go through the middle aisles at the grocery store, I feel that most of the time a snack should not be junk food. That totally misses the point of why you should snack. Think of a snack as something that is not too high in calories (remember, it’s not a meal), will provide some nutrition and be satisfying so that 30 minutes later, you don’t want to snack more. This is what I call a “balanced” snack. I look for snacks to have some healthy carbohydrates (think more fiber and less sugar), a good source of protein, and some healthy fat (mainly your unsaturated fats). Why all three? Well, if you’re low on energy or your blood sugar is falling, the carbohydrates will provide some quick energy to pick you up while the fiber, protein and fat will have more staying power to keep you satisfied until the next meal comes around. I notice that if I stray from this combination (and we all do occasionally) that I want to eat something all the time.
Easy Snack Options. These are some of my go-to snacks that have a good combination of all of the above. Try to avoid getting into a snack rut by eating the same snacks over and over again. Even if you eat the same type of snack, try to vary it by changing up the ingredients in some way. Here are a few snacks to get you started.
- Yogurt Crunch Cakes: This combination of Greek yogurt, almonds, and rice cakes makes for a satisfying creamy and sweet snack. Greek yogurts are often seen as a healthier snack option because it contains more protein than the regular stuff. But, it can still be loaded with sugar. That’s why I like to mix plain Greek yogurt with a little frozen fruit, a bit of honey, or all-fruit jam to minimize the sugar. Click here for the recipe.
- Fall Trail Mix: Trail mix is commonly seen as a good-for-you snack, but it can really be loaded with calories and sugar. Try this fall inspired mix that keeps the calories and sugar down while packing a punch with protein and fiber. Click here for the recipe.
- Veggies and Dip: This is one easy way to get more veggies in your diet because most of us don’t get enough at meals. I like to prep my veggies ahead of time and place in baggies so they are an easy grab-and-go. It’s as easy as a bag of assorted veggies and your “dip” which I like to rotate between hummus, guacamole, and garlic-herb. The best way to get a little more protein here is to combine 2 tablespoons prepared hummus or guac with 2-3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt. For the garlic-herb dip, take a 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt and mix to taste with a no-salt garlic herb seasoning such as Mrs. Dash along with a pinch of salt and pepper if needed.
- Fruit and Cheese. Nothing beats a good piece of cheese and perfectly ripe fruit. This time of year, I love having a nice crisp apple with an ounce of aged sharp cheddar cheese. Other good pairings include: strawberries with goat cheese (slice a strawberry in half, spread with goat cheese, and top with the other half), pears and blue cheese, peaches/nectarines with brie, and watermelon or grapes with feta cheese.
- Nuts, Seeds, or Roasted Chickpeas! I love all of the above for something salty and crunchy. Of course, for nuts (my faves are almonds, cashews, and pistachios) and seeds (I’m loving pumpkin seeds this time of year) it’s best to limit yourself to a one-ounce portion (check the labels, but this is usually 1/4 cup). Check out this recipe for roasted chickpeas from food blog How Sweet It Is. You just might find your next favorite snack!
The information contained in this post is provided for educational purposes only with the understanding that Optimal Nutrition and Health makes no warranties, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information. Readers are advised not to use information in this post or others found on this website for the treatment or prevention of disease, and it should not be used in place of medical treatment or advice. Please do not reprint this post for distribution without my permission. To feature on your website or social media, please link to this post as the original source.
Written by Michelle Baglio of Optimal Nutrition and Health (Google+). The information contained in this post is provided for educational purposes only with the understanding that Optimal Nutrition and Health makes no warranties, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information. Readers are advised not to use information in this post or others found on this website for the treatment or prevention of disease, and it should not be used in place of medical treatment or advice. Please do not reprint this post for distribution without my permission. To feature on your website or social media, please link to this post as the original source.