It can be hard to decide how we feel about snacking in general. On one hand, we’re told snacks are a good way to feed our body’s needs and keep our metabolism stoked.
On the other hand, snacking gets a bad rap for unneeded calories and mindless eating. Actually, a little of both is true. Here are healthy ways to handle your snack attacks.
The Pros and Cons of Snacking
Many people try not to eat between meals because the habit seems to have led them to weight gain. It’s easy to see how: popular snacks like cookies and chips, or late night snacks like ice cream and cold pizza, could be culprits. But it’s not the act of snacking itself, as much as the quality and timing of what you eat, that you should be looking at.
When you’re working out, snacks can actually serve as healthy fuel and recovery nutrition, instead of extra unneeded calories. And, when you stick to a healthy diet to lose weight, there’s no need to always feel hungry and deprived. Eating something small every 2-3 hours can help stabilize your blood sugars, and keep you from gorging on your next meal.
So if the next time you want something to munch on between meals, go ahead…but be prepared with the right foods to tide you over.
Snack Time Strategies
Let’s talk about the two main pitfalls with grabbing a snack:
- unconscious (or “mindless”) eating
- poor nutritional quality (or “empty calories”)
First, we need to look at why you’re having a snack in the first place. Snack time shouldn’t be an answer to boredom, or a way to occupy your idle hands. Make a conscious choice for each snack you select.
If you’re using a lot of energy throughout your week, in your workouts, or during other activities like charity races or weekend kayaking, you can benefit from the extra fuel. But if you’re watching TV and reaching in and out of a bag of pretzels for an hour, that’s another story.
The most obvious poor choices for snacks are “junk” foods and processed treats like french fries and candy bars. These high-carb choices tend to move through your digestion rather quickly, leaving you hungry again in a short time.
In fact, it’s all about making good choices! Here are five quick tips to help you do that:
Easy Choices for Smarter Snacking
- Choose “slow release” foods that are also nutritious. These are items that may be higher in fiber like fruits and vegetables and/or contain a balance of protein and fat, like a nuts or eggs, which hit your bloodstream at a slower pace.
- Choose satisfying foods in reasonable portions. A snack is, in many ways, a small meal. Remember, you will be eating again in a couple of hours, you’re only tiding yourself over. For example, nuts make for a great snack, but an ounce of nuts as your serving size may be less than most people think.
- Choose foods you already planned on eating. One way to handle your midday snacking at work is simply to divide your lunch in half, and eat a few hours apart, say at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. It’s less meal planning work for you, and gives you something to look forward to in the afternoon.
- Choose a nutrition-packed snack with protein and carbs after workout. A simple favorite is a protein smoothie. You can grab one at the snack bar after the gym – the flavor at the month at XSport is Pumpkin Pie. It’s a yummy way to refuel and restore. Speaking of yummy….
- Choose snacks you like, and that will keep you satisfied. Munching on celery sticks isn’t always the most rewarding, right? What about a little guacamole with those? Creamy avocado makes a great dip for your veggies sticks. Likewise, if you’re trying to kick the potato chip habit, try a handful of pumpkin or sunflower seeds—you can still enjoy the salty crunch you crave, but with more nutrition.