When you hear the word “snack” what do you think of? For some, it means weight gain, unhealthy or just a something to avoid. However, it should mean weight loss, healthy and something that everyone should fit into their diets. With the rise of sugary and salty foods, it can be hard to choose healthy snacks. But they can be avoided—and there are healthy ways to snack.
First of all, to avoid “over-snacking,” never go too long without eating. This will ultimately cause you to overindulge in something you weren’t planning on eating that day—and chances are it’s not something healthy. Your blood sugar drops when your body is starving so it begins to crave everything and anything. Have a small snack in between meals (a good “snack time” is two hours after meals) to avoid this problem.
In order to get yourself to snack healthy, keep junk food out of eye sight. Replace it with healthy food, such as fruit. Put apples and bananas in a bowl on your counter or keep a carton of nuts on a shelf at work. Making these small changes can significantly change your snacking habits.
The worst thing about snacks is that they often come in bags and boxes. It becomes a problem because we eat while we are distracted; therefore we end up eating more than we had planned. If you buy snacks that are packaged this way, take a serving size out, put it in a bowl or a plate and put the package away. This will keep your serving sizes in check as well as your overall health.
Try to stay away from the “diet snacks” that are advertised so often these days. Although they are low fat/low calorie, there is no way that they will keep you full for an adequate period of time. You will find yourself reaching for more, possibly within minutes! Instead, eat snacks that have the right combo of carbohydrates, protein and fat. They will keep you satisfied and give you a boost of energy that you need to carry on your day. Some examples of these kinds of snacks are:
- A handful of dried fruit and nuts (i.e. raisins and almonds)
- A fruit smoothie made with low-fat yogurt or milk
- One tbsp peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers
- Baby carrots dipped in hummus
It’s hard to believe, but the feeling of thirst is often mistaken for hunger. This is a huge weight gain culprit that can easily be reversed. Always remember to keep yourself hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Drink more when you sweat. The more water you drink, the less you will want to snack.
Keep yourself away from snacks that contain trans fat. Today, there are plenty of processed snacks out there. The truth is that if it’s processed, it probably has trans fat. Even just a little bit of trans fat can be harmful to your body, and it is recommended to not consume any at all. The best way to avoid these snacks is by looking at food labels—if it has trans fat, don’t buy it! Also, look in ingredient lists. Manufacturers aren’t required to write “trans fat” on a food label if the food contains less than 5 grams of it. Look for the words “hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list to determine if there is even just a little trans fat in the food.
If you have a snack craving, but know you’re not hungry, go for a short (or long, if you feel like it!), brisk walk. Studies show that doing so can curb cravings. Also, don’t let your mind win. Our minds tend to tell us that snacking will make us feel better or help us get something done, when in fact, this isn’t the case. Listen to your body, instead of your mind no matter how good a snack sounds at a given time.
Keep in mind that healthy snacks should be staples in everyone’s diet—even if you’re trying to lose weight. They help to keep our blood sugar in check and our stomachs from growling until meal time. They help us meet vitamin and mineral goals and to keep us awake at work or school. Never underestimate healthy snacks.
Brianna Elliott is a third year dietetics student and has grown a passion for nutrition through her years of studying. In her spare time, you can find her running and spending time outdoors. Brianna also spends her time slinging ink for ProbioticSmart.com – a leading internet supplier of Omega-Zyme – an enzyme supplement intended to be taken with snacks.