Despite some associations of snacking and higher energy intake, eating snacks can be beneficial as long as it’s done intentionally. Consuming snacks between meals can keep you from getting too hungry before your next meal and can therefore help prevent overeating.
Snacking also provides an opportunity to include nutrients or foods that were missing from previous meals. People that include one to two snacks between meals consume more nutrients such as fiber, calcium and vitamin C compared to those that don’t consume snacks.
Snacking can definitely be a good thing, just be sure to focus on consuming whole, nutritious foods. Not sure how to create nutritious snacks? We’ve created a list of some smart snacking strategies to help you snack with confidence and enjoyment!
Focus on Nutrients Instead of Calories
Rather than focusing on the calorie content of a snack, try thinking about nutrient-density instead. For example, many 100-calorie snack packs are not as healthy as their marketing may make them seem. While they are low in calories, they probably lack many beneficial nutrients that support health.
Instead of focusing on calories alone, choose smart snacks that are rich in vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, protein, and/or healthy fats.
Create snacks using foods from different food groups
What constitutes a snack? Healthy snacks are usually made of a combination of different foods that provide various benefits. Choosing foods that contain protein and carbohydrates creates filling and satisfying snacks.
Protein helps keep you full, and carbohydrates give you energy to get through the rest of your day. Opt for lean proteins and choose carbohydrates that are high in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Choose whole foods whenever possible
Opt for whole foods over processed foods as much as possible. Many processed snack foods are some of the least nutritious choices at the store.
Create snacks using whole foods or take the time to make your own snacks at home. Making your own snacks allows you to control the ingredients you use, plus it can be good for your wallet, as pre-packaged snacks tend to be more expensive due to their added convenience value.
Use snacks to curb your hunger
Consuming snacks between meals can help prevent you from getting so hungry that you overeat at your next meal. Keep your snacks simple and nutritious. Find quick-fix snacks that you like and are easy to prepare! Remember, however, that snacks are just that. Don’t go overboard and consume a meal’s worth of calories and justify it by calling it a “snack.”
Avoid eating snacks while watching TV or working on a computer. These activities can make it difficult to listen to hunger and fullness cues. Eat at a designated place such as the dining room table, kitchen counter, or even your patio.
Listen to your body and mind and try to avoid eating out of boredom or stress. Eating in the absence of hunger can cause you to eat nutrient-poor foods that are high in sodium, fat, and sugar. If you are indeed hungry, again, choose whole foods.