It’s been a few hours since your last meal, and you are starting to feel that sluggish; cranky; “hangry” feeling coming on... I’m sure most of us have felt this feeling before. Often snacking gets a bad reputation due to it "causing weight gain", however if you do it the right way it can actually aid with weight loss and/or management. In addition to weight loss, snacking appropriately can support with several other health benefits including: increased energy; improved mood; increased metabolism; improved digestion; increased mental clarity; etc. The key to healthy snacking is portion control and opting for more nutrient dense foods. As we probably already know, 150 calories of potato chips is not metabolized quite the same as 150 calories of broccoli, and of course the recommended portion sizes for these are going to look quite different. If we can get these strategies for healthy snacking down, maintaining our weight and health is going to most likely be much easier. However, as we probably already know, healthy snacking can often be easier said than done, especially if we are stressed; bored; tired; etc. That's when planning ahead goes a long way! Below you will find some healthy snack ideas, as well as some tips to hopefully support you with mastering healthy snacking.
Healthy Snack Ideas (for the sweet tooth):
Apple + 1 TBSP of peanut or almond butter
Celery sticks + 1 TBSP of peanut butter
1 cup of fresh or frozen fruit (frozen mango or grapes are my favorite for a dessert!)
Greek yogurt + berries
Piece of fruit (a clementine; an apple; or a banana are easy to grab on the go)
1 Medjool date + 1/2 TBSP of peanut or almond butter (I have this every morning as a pre-workout snack, and it is one of my favorite snacks!)
Piece of dark chocolate + 1 TSP of almond butter
1/2-1 granola bar (I personally like Larabar and RXBAR due to the minimal and healthy ingredients)
Fruit smoothie (1 cup of frozen fruit + 1 cup of almond milk + handful of spinach)
Protein shake (1 scoop of protein powder + water; consider throwing in a handful of spinach for additional nutrients)
1 serving of granola +blueberries (My favorite brand is "Purely Elizabeth")
Healthy Snack Ideas (for savory cravings)
Carrots + 2 TBSP of hummus
Celery sticks + 2 TBSP of salsa
Peppers + 2 TBSP of guacamole
Cucumber + 2 TBSP of tzatziki
1 cup of kale chips
1/4 cup of nuts (almonds; cashews; pistachios are great options)
1/3 cup of roasted chickpeas (I personally like the "Bienna" roasted chickpea brand)
1 serving of popcorn (Consider opting for no butter and watch the sodium on the label; top it with 1 TBSP of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor and additional health benefits)
1/2 serving of whole wheat crackers + 2 TBSP of hummus (I personally like Mary's Gone Crackers due to the whole and minimal ingredients; consider throwing in some carrots or peppers with it too for a little extra nutrients)
1/2-1 serving of baked tortilla chips + 2 TBSP of salsa (I personally like "Siete tortilla chips" due to their whole ingredients; consider throwing in some peppers as well to add a little more nutrients)
Tips for Healthy Snacking:
Portion out your snacks that are higher in calories ahead of time (examples include: nuts; crackers; tortilla chips; etc.)
Fill up on fruits and veggies since these are high in nutrients and low in calories
Make snacking part of your routine- Just like breakfast; lunch; and dinner, snacking should be planned out so you aren't grazing all day. Having too many snacks can cause you to feel lethargic and bloated versus energized. Consider reflecting on when you are feeling those hunger ques in between meals, and designate that time as your snack time. On average, most people have 2-3 snacks per day, but there is no one size fits all, so it is encouraged to listen to your body to determine how many you need.
Try to incorporate a fruit or vegetable with each of your snacks- Fiber keeps us satisfied and full longer, so this will help you with using more portion control throughout the rest of the day.
Identify your triggers for "mindless" snacking- For example, maybe you tend to eat the whole bag of potato chips when you are stressed; bored; tired etc.
Break down your barriers for “mindless” snacking- For example, if you tend to grab the chips when you are stressed, consider trying something in replacement such as: having a healthier snack; taking a walk; meditating; calling a loved one; taking a bath; cuddling your pet; etc.
Shop smart- consider stocking up on healthy snacks, and limiting the not so nutrient dense/higher calorie snacks
Get your family on board- Often it can be challenging to stay on track when the rest of your family is eating your favorite chips. Consider buying healthier alternatives such as baked chips, and if you have kids, get creative with the healthy snacks such as making “ants on a log” (celery + peanut butter + raisins). Habits are formed when we are young, so encouraging healthy snacking can make a big difference in the long run.
Keep a journal- Consider reflecting on and writing down your snacks; how you were feeling before and after eating them; any challenges you faced; something you’re proud of that you did; etc. Reflecting on these items can support us with more mindful eating.
Get curious- Next time you are eating a snack, consider slowing down; turning off the TV; and tuning into how you are feeling while eating the snack. For example, you might notice those first few pieces of chocolate taste way better than that 5th piece of chocolate, and you might feel more satisfied with just a few and feel bloated and uncomfortable while eating the 5th. The more we can tune into our feelings real time, the more likely we will be able to break the habit.
Use the hunger scale- Before reaching for that snack, consider asking yourself “On a scale from 1-10, how hungry am I, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest?” If your answer is higher than 5 you know you are truly hungry and it’s time to eat, and if it’s closer to 1, you will know this is just a craving. Then you can determine to have something small like an apple, or choose to do something else such as read your favorite book; go on a walk; etc.
Read the labels- You might be surprised to see that your healthy granola bar has as many calories as your lunch or dinner. Some bars are meant as meal replacements, so you might want to consider eating half of the granola bar if you are eating it as a snack versus a meal.
Avoid all of nothing kind of thinking: If you end up binge eating snacks, consider trying to not stress over it, and just focus on getting back on track for the next meal or snack. We are all human, so we are all going to have slip ups. The most important thing is to get back on track, and to reflect on what you learned from the experience so you can do better next time.
Thank you for stopping by! I hope you find these tips valuable, and have a happy and healthy weekend!