To snack or not to snack? This is a question we hear often that does not always have a simple YES or NO answer. Snacks can be a healthy addition to meals and even a way to sneak in some extra nutrients from fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. However, snacking can also lead to consuming too many calories, which can result in weight gain even, when choosing “healthy” ingredients.
Make the most of snack time by keeping a few simple strategies in mind:
- Snacks should be large enough to tide you over, but small enough to avoid derailing the next meal.
- Contrary to popular belief, frequent snacking does not lead to weight loss. Calorie restriction and energy expenditure are the only proven weight loss techniques. Too many calories, regardless of when they are consumed, lead to weight gain.
- Kids do not need snacks. They do, however, have smaller tummies and shorter attention spans that make it difficult to consume larger meals. Snacks may be helpful, but are not a necessity.
- Prior to reaching for a snack, ask yourself, “Am I truly hungry, or can I hold off until the next meal?” If you are hungry, consider trying a bubbly beverage like carbonated water or an unsweetened tea instead of mindlessly nibbling.
In many circumstances, snacks are the right choice. Follow these ideas for a variety of snack situations:
- The “Boredom” snack: If you aren’t truly hungry and a calorie-free beverage isn’t doing the trick, try snacking on some cold, crisp veggies. Make it count by choosing vitamin-packed and fiber-filled varieties like, pre-cut sweet bell peppers, jicama, broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, fresh green beans, or baby tomatoes.
- The “No Time for a Real Lunch” snack: If a real meal isn’t an option, stick to a formula of energy-rich protein and high fiber carbohydrates. Try a dried fruit and nut bar, or make your own trail mix with high fiber cereal, unsweetened dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
- The “Pre-Workout” snack: Heading to the gym, and you ate lunch what seems like HOURS ago? Avoid the protein and try some easy-to-digest carbohydrates, like fresh fruit. Not only a great source of carbohydrates, but fruit is also filled with fluid — the perfect pre-workout pair.
- The “Dinner Isn’t Ready Yet?” snack: Bring it back to those veggies! Consider pairing with a quick dip containing bone-building calcium. We love a Greek-yogurt dip — packed with protein and just enough staying power to still have an appetite for when dinner hits the table.
- The “Gas Station” snack: Healthy food at a gas station? Yes! Look for whole grain, low-fat popcorn, mixed nuts, or even a fiber-filled, oat-based granola bar.
BOTTOM LINE: Choose snacks wisely and limit the availability of packaged foods at home. Typically, the fewer choices we have in the pantry, the more inclined we are to look to the refrigerator for a fresh, healthy snack.
For more snack-spiration, check out Lara’s segment with WGN’s Living Healthy Chicago and try some of our FEED-favorite recipes: