Everyone loves a good snack – a little something to keep you going until lunch or a quick nibble to get you through the mid-afternoon doldrums. A bite here, a bite there. How much harm could it really do, right?
Quite a bit, in fact. Unhealthy snack choices are often a primary contributor to low energy levels and weight gain. Too often, they are full of empty calories, providing the spike in energy that we are craving but leaving us feeling sluggish and unsatisfied in no time at all.
The good news is that there is a flip side to snacking. Healthy snack choices can leave us feeling energized and alert WITHOUT the crash on the other side. They also have great staying power, warding off any between-meal cravings.
Here are 5 tips on how best to avoid the pitfalls of unhealthy snacking:
- CREATE YOUR OWN SHORT LIST OF GO-TO SNACKS. The perfect snacks include a combination of carbs and protein. The carbs provide that needed energy boost while the protein leaves you feeling satisfied longer, carrying you through to your next meal. With that carbs/protein combo in mind, pick a few snack ideas that work for you and make a point of adding the ingredients to your weekly shopping list.
- DON’T GET CAUGHT EMPTY HANDED. In today’s world of grab n’ go eating, getting caught without a healthy snack on hand can be downright dangerous. There are just too many empty calorie options out there today. Instead, plan ahead for that unexpected hunger pang. Carry a small bag of nuts with you or possibly a supply of homemade granola. The key is having that healthy alternative readily available to avoid the temptation of other high sugar, high (bad) fat options.
- KEEP AN EYE ON PORTIONS. A snack is just that… a snack. Portions don’t need to be large. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Eat just enough to benefit from that energy boost and take the edge off your hunger. Any more than that and your “snack” has become a meal.
- DON’T GO HUNGRY. Although it is always a good idea to have general guidelines on how often and at what times you snack, don’t be afraid to make exceptions. You are more likely to make unhealthy choices if you sit down to a meal feeling famished. It is important to stay fueled up throughout the day, even if that means adding an extra snack along the way.
- YES, DRINKS COUNT. Just because it is liquid doesn’t mean that it doesn’t count. Drinks have become one of the biggest culprits when it comes to empty calories. Soda, flavored water, fancy coffee drinks – all are overflowing with refined sugar or other processed sweeteners. They may help with that low-energy level in the short term but ultimately leave you feeling worse off than when you started. Instead, try green tea with honey or water with lemon. That way, you get to avoid both the unnecessary calories AND the inevitable sugar crash.
A few suggested snack ideas:
- 1/2 of a chopped cucumber and 1/2 chopped tomato with fresh basil, olive oil, lemon, sea salt and pepper.
- 3 chicken fingers and a handful of veggie sticks with “Anytime Yogurt Dip” (greek yogurt with lemon juice, mint, and sea salt)
- Goat cheese and 1/2 of an apple
- 1 cup of frozen blueberries
- 8 nori sheets (seaweed)
- 1/2 cup of kale chips
- 4 Multigrain crackers with goat cheese, smoked salmon, and cucumber
- Yogurt, fruit and/or veggie smoothie
- Boiled egg slices with crispy rye bread
- Cucumber water
- Crushed seasonal fruit and sparkling water
- Organic iced tea
- Hot water with lemon