In the world of snacking, convenience is king but balance is key. In the past snacks were regarded as throwaway calories and most people tried to avoid eating between meals. As snacking as become more prevalent and generally acceptable, we all need to snack smart. We need healthy options to give us energy and satisfy cravings. Skipping snacks can result in overeating later in the day which can contribute to slow and steady weight gain. Additionally, it's important to keep blood sugar stable throughout the day to avoid dips in energy as well as the need for sugar.
Many people can go without a mid-morning snack, it's the afternoon when we start to feel that we "just need something." Lunch seems ages ago and dinner won't be for another five hours. This is when what you eat really matters; it can impact the rest of your day. If you typically go into snack mode—delving into a box of crackers or a bag of chips—while preparing dinner, this behavior can likely be resolved by snacking earlier in the afternoon.
Here, several balanced snack ideas and strategies that will fuel your brain and body while also satisfying your cravings.
The Fruit Factor
Fruit is a healthy snack and contains natural sugar and fiber. The problem is that snacking on fruit by itself can leave you feeling less than satisfied. Ideally you want to balance the sugars (carbohydrates) with a protein and a fat. You can enjoy an apple with a cheese stick and a few almonds, or grapes or berries with walnuts and cottage cheese. If you have a dairy sensitivity, look for plant-based Greek yogurt options. Hard boiled eggs or deli meat are other options.
Toast isn't just for breakfast. Snacks like hummus toast will keep you satiated between meals. In fact, hummus toast is the perfect combination of protein, carbohydrate, and fat and makes for a great pre or post-workout snack. Hummus is made from chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and tahini (a sesame seed paste). Topped with a few slices of avocado, which contain heart healthy fats, this combination will satiate your brain and body.
Slow It Down!
It's important to slow down when you we are snacking. Whether we are distracted by social media or snacking on foods that have little to no nutritional value, we are more likely to overeat when we are less mindful. Shell-on pistachios are a handy snack to help you "fool yourself full"—the leftover shells may provide a visual cue for portions, potentially helping to curb intake. Plus, pistachios offer better-for-you mono and polyunsaturated fats, plant protein, and fiber, for a trio that can help keep you fuller longer. Try combining pistachios with Greek yogurt and pomegranate arils.
For most people the craving for chocolate usually kicks in mid-afternoon. Instead of a sugary candy bar, try enjoying a few squares of dark chocolate with fruit and beef jerky. The sweet and savory combination really works. Look for a chocolate bar that contains a higher percentage of cocoa as this leaves less room for sugar to creep in. There's no need to wait for a holiday or a reason to enjoy chocolate but remember, everything in moderation!
Sippable and Portable
Once simply a puréed fruit drink, smoothies are now a sippable snack option aimed at the health-conscious consumer. With ingredients such as kale, hemp seeds, almond butter, cacao powder, spirulina, and bee pollen, the flavors and nutrients are limitless! Incorporating spices also adds flavor without calories. Try experimenting with smoothie recipes and make sure you include a protein, carbohydrate and fat in your creations.