Have you found yourself eating more often during the day – and making snacks part of your regular rotation, particularly in the afternoon? Well, you’re not alone.
According to recent research by the Hartman Group, US consumers are snacking, or eating mini-meals, more often than in the past. In fact, we’re eating 2.3 snacks daily, with a majority of our “snack occasions” eaten in the late afternoon and early evening.
We’ve all heard the bad rap that snacking has gotten in the past, so is this uptick in snacking good or bad? Turns out, snacking can be a good thing as long you choose the right foods.
For active individuals, having a protein snack before exercise can keep muscles fueled, and snacking wisely can also be helpful for those wanting to control their weight or lose a few pounds. According to supermarket registered dietitian, Patricia Hunter, MA, RD, CDE, Hannaford Supermarket, Chelmsford and Leominster Massachusetts, “Smart snacking between meals helps to maintain our weight by providing steady energy throughout the day. These strategies can help set you up to eat less at meals and keep you on track if weight loss is your goal.”
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make healthy snacking part of your diet:
- It’s all about balance: At each of your meals, eat a variety of foods, mostly plant-based, small portions of lean protein, and whole grains; staying hydrated with lots of water is important, too. And when it comes to snack time, Ms. Hunter suggests, “Snacking combinations from two food groups result in keeping hunger at bay for a longer time period.”
- Consider your snacks as part of your overall daily calorie and nutrient intake. Ms. Hunter adds, “Use snacking as an opportunity to improve your diet and ‘ﬁll in the gaps.’ If you lack adequate dairy, fruits, veggies or whole grains – make sure to select a snack that adds those foods. Choose a snack that is between 100 – 150 calories.”
- Use mindful eating and portion control techniques. Being mindful of what and how much you eat goes a long way. Whether you’re eating your main meal or favorite snack, slow down and take your time while eating, you’ll feel fuller with less food. Be sure to read the labels to make sure you’re eating the recommended serving – and to know how many calories you really are consuming.
- It’s still about balance. If you overindulged one day, there’s no need to feel remorse. Enjoy the treat you gave yourself, and go back to your healthy lifestyle the next day. It’s really about the balance of what you eat everyday that matters.
Satisfying Snacks Ideas
There are a myriad of ways to snack happy whether you make the nibbles yourself or ﬁnd healthy versions at your local grocer. Here are a few quick, easy and delicious ideas:
Chopped or sliced veggies such as cucumbers, celery and carrots are perennial favorites – use them as dippers for hummus, guacamole, or Greek yogurt. (Tip: Single-serving packages are a great way to ensure you’re eating the recommended serving size of these dips).
If you have a salty or crunchy craving, kale chips, nuts or seeds can do the trick.
Need a sweet lift? Berries or other fruit are naturally juicy and sate the sweet tooth. Greek yogurt mixed with fruit gives the creaminess we love about ice cream – with less calories and fat. Or, cut up an apple or pear and spread a small dollop of peanut butter or hummus over each slice.
Seek out healthy, minimally processed snack foods that are low in sodium and sugar. Fortunately today, many food manufacturers and restaurants have heard the call for healthier foods and are creating products that we can enjoy for their ﬂavor, texture, convenience and most of all, their healthy properties.
For more information and ideas for snacking happy, be sure to check out our Oldways Nutrition Exchange July Toolkit, Satisfying Snacks that will post in mid-July.