Snacking can be a very healthful practice, boosting our energy in the middle of the day. It can also be a nutritional boost, as long as the snack is nutrient dense rather than empty calories. An example of a nutrient dense snack would be a yogurt, fruit, vegetables, low-fat cheese, nuts, hummus, cottage cheese, rice cakes, popcorn, trail mix, etc. Think of the food groups, and pick something that you haven’t yet eaten. Keep in mind that protein and fiber fill you up and hold your appetite longer. Pairing whole grain crackers with hummus, or natural peanut butter contains both nutrients that will curb your appetite longer than chips or a candy bar. Snacks with a low nutrient profile will give you a quick energy boost, but will leave you hungry, and craving more. Choose your snacks wisely!
Also, how you snack is also important…tune into your body for signals. Try to snack when you are “physically” rather than “emotionally” hungry. We all know signs of physical hunger- stomach gargling, tired or brain fog, or it’s been 4-5 hours since your last meal. These are definite times to snack and get the energy boost needed. Usually between lunch and dinner is a recommended time to snack because it will keep you from over-eating later at night. Depending on how early or late your dinner is will determine if you need a night snack. Try not to eat past 9pm as a general rule to avoid the late night munching. Weekends can be more flexible, just be aware of quantities. Ask yourself if you are hungry before you snack, if you are not, try to delay the response at least 20 minutes. Usually if you get busy doing something else the craving will go away.
If a snack comes from a bag or box, read the label for the serving size, and use that as a guide. If the box says 5 crackers, then use that as your snack size portion. This will help with portion control, and to avoid over eating. Try to keep snacks under 200 calories for better control, otherwise it can turn into a meal. Some food items are already pre-portioned, this can be a time saver, but usually costs more money for the convenience. You can always pre-portion snacks ahead of time on your own, and use a small baggie, container, or bowl as a holder. Take snacks along with you in case hunger strikes, you will be prepared. Try to plan ahead for needed snacks so you don’t resort to the vending machine, or candy which can be empty calories leaving you hungry for more! Curb your cravings for sweets by focusing on fiber and protein. Keep the cravings out of the house for better control. Enjoy an occasional indulgence over the weekend when eating out or at a social occasion. Learn to enjoy special indulgences in limited amounts and in controlled settings! Remember all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle!
Janet Brancato is a Registered Dietitian based out of Glen Rock, NJ. She works with clients online, over the phone, and face to face.