I love to eat, and I do it often. One of the things I hear frequently is, “But I get so hungry between meals, I have to have something!” It’s perfectly fine, and also advisable, to have five – six meals per day, two or three of those being snacks. For me, on days that involve high levels of activity (if I will be having an intensive workout session sometime during the day) I’ll have three. On lower-level activity days, I’ll have two. The key to snacking is to do it right. Too many times our snacking habits just add calories with little or no nutrition to our daily diet. When done right, snacking during the day keeps your energy level up and allows you to pack more good nutrition into your day.
I have found that if I eat healthy foods with plenty of protein and fiber per serving, my hunger is satisfied and I stay fuller longer. Protein promotes the growth of lean muscle mass and boots your metabolism, which in turn increases your calorie burn. Fiber improves your digestion and helps to lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.
However, there are so many products on the grocery shelves that claim the healthy label, but are just about as far from being good for you as the east is from the west. While the prepared bars and other snacks are convenient, upon close examination most of them do not live up to their claims. In the last two weeks we’ve talked about processed foods and how their nutritional content is significantly less than fresh and natural foods. Prepared snacks are no different, and they also usually tend to run very high in sugar content. Also, if you read the labels, there are a lot of added ingredients, things you can’t pronounce and haven’t a clue what they are. There are a few exceptions, which I have listed below. But as a general rule, remember fresh is best and if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, don’t buy the product!
Now, I know some of you are going to grumble at me a bit on this, but it is best to prepare your own snacks ahead of time. The little time that it takes to prepare your own saves more time in the long and you can control the content (i.e. healthier, more nutrition). Also, when the hungries hit, you can reach for the good snack vs. grabbing whatever is available, quick and easy (usually not good for you).
Another good tip for making your snacks ahead of time is that you can premeasure. No guessing about how much you should have, or eating out of the bag/box/container, which will lead to more than you should have. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. It’s a snack, not a meal, so your aim should be 200 calories or less for snack time.
Listed below are some nutrient-rich snacks that will help you snack the sensible way. This is not a complete list, just some options from snacks I have on a weekly basis. A good side to pair as a dip with the vegetables is hummus. Cottage cheese will work with either fruit or vegetables. If you have questions about a particular snack, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to visit this week’s recipe for a good snack idea. I’ll be providing more in the future.
- KIND Healthy Grains® bars (five super grains!)
- KIND Bars (be sure to look for the ones labeled low Glycemic)
- GHIRARDELLI Intense Dark 72% Cacao Twilight Delight (dark chocolate only, at least 72% cacao; cacao is a “superfood” containing flavonoids which lower blood pressure and improve blood flow and is also a powerful antioxidant, more than blueberries, serving is one square)
- 1 apple
- ½ grapefruit
- 1 cup strawberries
- ½ cup blueberries
- ½ avocado
- 1 cup carrots and/or celery sticks
- 1 cup cauliflower
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup cucumber
- 1 cup sweet red pepper
Nuts (natural or dry roasted, avoid packaged or roasted in oil)
- ¼ cup almonds
- ¼ cup cashews
- ¼ walnuts
- ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 1 cup plain, low-fat or fat-free unsweetened yogurt (premixed with fruit is very high in sugar, add stevia and choice of fruit, I love mine with cinnamon, stevia and blueberries or strawberries)