Many of us love to snack; including snacks is a normal part of many of our daily eating patterns. That’s why we’ve created this list of healthy snacking tips so that you can make the most out of your snacks!
Why are healthy snacks important? Despite some associations of snacking with higher calorie consumption, eating snacks can be beneficial as long as it’s done right. Consuming snacks between meals can keep you from getting too hungry before your next meal and can therefore help prevent overeating (1). Snacking also provides an opportunity to include nutrients or foods that were missing from a previous meal. People that include one to two snacks between meals consume more nutrients such as fiber, calcium and vitamin C than those who don’t consume snacks (2).
Snacking can definitely be a good thing, just be sure to focus on consuming whole, nutritious foods. Not sure of how to create nutritious snacks? We’ve created a list of some smart snacking strategies to help you snack with confidence and ease.
1. Focus on nutrients instead of calories.
Rather than focusing on the calorie content of a snack, try thinking about nutrient-density instead. 100-calorie snack packs, for example, are generally not as healthy as their marketing may make them seem. While they are low in calories, they are probably lacking many beneficial nutrients that support your health. Instead of focusing on calories alone, choose smart snacks that are rich in vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, protein, and/or healthy fats.
2. Create snacks using foods from different food groups.
What constitutes a snack? Healthy snacks are usually a combination of different foods that provide various benefits. Choosing foods that contain protein and carbohydrates creates filling and satisfying snacks (3). Protein helps keep you full, and carbohydrates give you energy to get through the rest of your day. Opt for lean proteins and choose carbohydrates that are high in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
3. Choose whole foods whenever possible.
Opt for whole foods over processed foods as much as possible. Unfortunately, many marketed snack foods are some of the least nutritious choices at the store. Choose to create your snacks using whole foods or take the time to make your own snacks at home before reaching for highly-processed and pre-packaged options. Making your own snacks allows you to control the ingredients you use, plus it can be good for your wallet, as pre-packaged snacks tend to be more expensive due to their added convenience value.
Here are some healthy affordable snacks that are easy to prepare at the beginning of the week or throw together in a pinch.
- Apple slices + spoonful of nut butter
- Homemade trail mix
- Fruit of your choice + a handful of nuts
- Kefir smoothie
- Veggies + hummus
- Yogurt + granola + fruit
- Fruit + cheese
- Hard boiled egg + fruit or veggies
- Whole grain tortilla chips + salsa
- Whole grain toast + nut butter
- Cottage cheese + fruit
- Oatmeal energy bites
4. Use snacks to curb your hunger.
Consuming snacks between meals can help prevent you from getting so hungry that you overeat at your next meal. Keep your snacks simple and nutritious. Find quick fix snacks that you like and are easy – the possibilities and combinations are endless!
5. Be mindful.
Avoid eating snacks while watching TV or working on a computer. These activities can make it difficult to listen to hunger and fullness cues (4). Eat in a designated place such as the dining room table, kitchen counter, or even your patio. Listen to your body and mind and try to avoid eating out of boredom or stress. Eating in the absence of hunger can cause you to eat nutrient-poor foods that are high in sodium, fat, and sugar (5). If you are indeed hungry, choose whole foods over processed chips, pastries, or candies.
6. Pay attention to portion size.
Remember, a snack is supposed to help ward off hunger between meals – not substitute a meal. Be sure to enjoy snacks in moderation. You don’t necessarily have to measure your food, but having an awareness of appropriate portion sizes can be helpful. If buying or cooking in bulk, divide snacks into smaller containers to keep portions sizes under control.
7. Plan your snacks.
Include smart healthy snacks as part of your weekly meal planning. Planning and preparing your snacks ahead of time will help you avoid reaching for quick, unhealthy options. Energy bites are a great snack to prepare in advance and enjoy throughout the week.
8. Make the healthy choice the easy choice.
Keep pre-cut fruits and vegetables and other nutritious ingredients visible in the refrigerator or pantry for easy access. Keep staple ingredients on hand so that you can make easy healthy snacks, such as this greek yogurt smoothie.
9. Pack snacks to go.
Have you ever been out running errands and all of a sudden your stomach starts to growl? Do you tough it out and risk being “hangry” when you get home or do you swing into the drive-thru for something fast and easy? Having grab-and-go snacks packed in your bag can keep you on track with your health goals when these moments arise. Pack items that don’t require refrigeration like trail mix, whole grain crackers, healthy granola bars, or whole fruit.
10. Don’t snack all day long.
The amount of snacks you choose to eat in a day will depend on the size of your meals and your individual calorie needs. Some people prefer to have a mid-morning snack and a late afternoon snack, and others are satisfied with just a late afternoon snack. We don’t recommend snacking continuously; the calories can add up quickly and lead to weight gain (6). Figure out an eating pattern that works best for you!
We hope that you found these smart snacking strategies helpful! Need some inspiration for healthy snacks recipes? Check out our recipe archives for lots of easy, nutrient-dense, and versatile snack ideas.
To YOUR Taste!