A Guide to Healthy Snacking
The Importance of Snacking
While your mother may have warned you that snacking could ruin your appetite, sneaking in healthy food between meals can help keep your body replenished, speed up metabolism, and increase energy levels.
Snacking is especially important if you're an active person. Whether hiking, biking, or kayaking, healthy snacks give your body the energy it needs so you can keep doing what you love.
Stay Ahead of Hunger
The secret to keeping your snacking healthy is to anticipate the hunger before it arrives. This means packing something healthy with you, so when the urge hits, you bite into something that’s going to give you the maximum health boost. While many packaged foods say "snack-sized" on them, they often aren’t the healthiest choice. Candy bars, chips, and other common snacks are loaded with empty calories and lack quality nutrition.
Fresh fruit already has its own packaging, which makes it easy and convenient to carry with you. Apples, bananas, plums, peaches, and other common fruits pack quick energy, as well as a delicious, sweet taste to keep your stomach from rumbling. Farmer’s markets are excellent places to try new kinds of fruits to prevent snacking boredom. For maximum nutrition, pick fruits that were grown organically.
Just like fruit, vegetables offer your body energy and nutrition in a convenient, takeaway package. Celery sticks, baby carrots, broccoli florets, and other veggies are easy to package up and have on hand, and they give you the crunch you crave and essential nutrients your body needs.
Wash, chop up, and package your veggies ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. It’s an easy way to make healthy snacking more convenient.
Raw nuts—like pecans, almonds, cashews, and others—pack some serious protein and brain-boosting nutrition. Besides protein for sustained energy, nuts have fiber, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals.
Traditional roasted and salted nuts lack the nutritional value of raw nuts and add an unhealthy amount of sodium to your diet. Stick with plain, raw nuts for highest nutritional value.
Refined flour has been processed and stripped of most of its nutrition and fiber, but whole grains still have it intact. Whole grains like whole wheat flour, oats, and barley include more fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals than refined, or white grains. Choose whole grain crackers, bread, and chips as a healthier alternative to your typical snacks.
If that chocolate craving just won’t go away, don’t feel too bad about indulging in it. Grab a bar of dark chocolate, and you are still snacking healthfully. Unlike typical chocolate bars, dark chocolate is low in sugar and the fats from dairy that are plentiful in milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants because it contains more real cacao.
Juice and water are great ways to momentarily subside hunger without filling you with empty calories. Sometimes when you feel hungry, you may actually be a little dehydrated. Stay away from drinks that are high in calories and additives, and low in nutrition. For example, there is plenty of sugar and sodium in sodas, energy drinks, and other common beverages.
At the Store
If you forget to pack something and have to grab your snack on the go, check the nutrition labels before you buy! Look for snacks that are high in protein and dietary fiber, but low in calories, sodium, and cholesterol. Take a few extra minutes to make a smart choice about your snack and you will end up with a healthier option than if you let impulse take control.
- Healing Foods Pyramid. (2010). University of Michigan Health System. Retrieved June 18, 2013, fromhttp://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.htm
- MyPlate Snack Tips for Parents. (2013, March). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved June 18, 2013, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet24MyPlateSnackTipsforParents.pdf
- Snacks: How They Fit into Your Weight-Loss Plan. (2012, May 25). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 13, 2013, fromhttp://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-diet/HQ01396