When most people think “snacks” they are thinking about foods such as chips, cookies, and candy bars. You can’t help but think this way. Grocery stores actually have an entire aisle dedicated to snack foods. Unfortunately, the available options in these aisles are usually “snack foods” that are high in salt, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. They are also usually lacking in any other healthy nutrients.
These snacks don’t usually fill you up and you end up eating more shortly thereafter to feel some satisfaction. Have no fear, there are good snack ideas out there. Try and look for foods that are naturally lower in calories but higher in fiber and water like fresh fruits and vegetables. The fiber and water content of these foods help you to feel full and satisfy your hunger in between meals. Alongside fruit and veggie selections, include partner foods that have some protein and fat in them such as hummus, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, peanut butter, and nuts.
A great idea is to plan out your snacks ahead of time. This allows you to control what you’re going to choose when the hunger hits you. People who are prepared don’t have to scour the vending machine to try and figure out which snacks won’t break their calorie budget. A great alternative is to pack snack size bags with nuts, home-made trail mix, or cut-up veggies. I find that keeping healthy snack choices close, even in your desk drawers or in the company fridge, also makes it easier to not reach into my co-workers candy bowl all the time.
Although I do love a good snack or two, I find that the most important thing to remember is that no matter how healthy the snack, portion size is the biggest issue to be aware of. Whether something is considered “healthy” or not, eating too much of anything can lead to weight gain.
A great way to have healthy snacks and still stay on your calorie budget is to know the calorie values of your snacks. Calorie counting books, online calorie counters, and smartphone apps are all fast, easy resources to look up these values. I try to remember that snacks should really never go above 250 calories. If you are on a calorie-restricted diet, then it’s important to fit your snacks into your calorie needs for the day. Snacks are a bridge, allowing you to feel satisfied between meals. Watching your portion sizes and choosing the most satisfying snacks will not only fulfill your cravings and hunger, but will also allow you to be successful in your weight loss or maintenance.
Guest Blogger Darcie Sosa is a Dietetic Technician at Everyday Health and oversees the calorie counter tool.