When you hear the word “snacking,” do visions of double-stuffed cookies, caramel fudge ice cream, and you-can’t-eat-just-one chips come to mind?
While Americans tend to munch on too much of these unhealthful options, when snacking is done right, it can contribute to intakes of much-needed nutrients, help curb appetite, and possibly help control weight.
However, when trying to lose weight, many people think they have to get rid of one thing: snacks.
As weight loss professionals, we’re here to tell you that strategy is probably not your best idea. Rather, you should understand that to eat healthfully, lose weight, or reduce risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, you don’t have to give up snacking!
Benefits of Snacking
It Keeps Your Metabolism Going
Healthy snacks are more like slow-burning fuel that helps you keep going all day. Giving your body something to burn more than 3x a day further stimulates your metabolism to burn more calories, which can help with weight maintenance and even weight loss.
It Helps You Eat Less at Meal Times
Waiting until you’re absolutely ravenous at dinner because you haven’t eaten for 6-8 hours only makes you eat more. By giving yourself a low calorie, filling snack in the afternoon, you
It Helps You Reach Nutrient Goals
Seek out snacks rich in vitamins and minerals to help satisfy your nutrient goals for the day. For example, having an apple with almond butter would pack in protein and fiber.
It Boosts Mood
Blood sugar dips three to five hours after you eat.When blood sugar levels get too low, you can become irritable and have trouble concentrating. So snacking can help to boost mood and improve clarity by maintaining consistent blood sugar levels.
It Helps Control Cravings
When hungry, the brain can trick the mind to think you’re craving something super sweet, or super salty and the huge assortment of fast food restaurants on the drive home doesn’t make it any easier. Foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and legumes are satisfying and are packed with the nutrients, fiber, and protein your body needs, and they guard against sugar highs and lows, so you are less likely to succumb to your sweet tooth — or whatever your dietary Achilles’ heel may be.
Using Food as Fuel
Just like a car needs gas to go, your body needs fuel to run; and that body fuel is FOOD. However, like your car, your body also functions better when given the correctfuel.
Such nutrient-poor, sugary snacks as candy bars are like fuel that runs hot and flames out. They give you a quick jolt of energy that is followed by a crash that can leave you hungry, cranky, sleepy, and unable to concentrate.
Healthy snacks are more like slow-burning fuel that helps you keep going all day. Having several snacks a day helps banish that post-meal sleepiness that comes from consuming too many calories at one sitting. If you include protein in your snack, you’ll derive an extra mental boost — protein-laden food like fish, meat, eggs, cheese, and tofu contain an amino acid that increases the production of neurotransmitters that regulate concentration and alertness.
Many of us naturally reach for carbohydrates when we’re feeling down because they help lift our mood by boosting the brain chemical serotonin. While processed foods like plain bagels and cookies give a quick high, it’s followed by a sharp low. Good-for-you fruit sugars, honey, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and many vegetables lift mood and battle fatigue without the roller-coaster effect.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another good nutrient to include in snacks, for your heart as well as your head. Tuna, walnuts, and some other foods contain omega-3s, which help fight high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as depression and anxiety.
Smart Snack Ideas
As you now know, snacking can be very beneficial if done correctly. Your goal with snacks should be simple, stick to the 3 S’s of snacking: small, satisfying, and smart! Try to always include a small source of protein if pairing with a fruit, vegetable, or grain in order to stimulate fullness that will last until your next meal.
Though there are several unhealthy options that you may be more likely to grab because of easier accessibility, here are some options are healthy, satisfying snacks to include into your day:
Apple Slices with Almond Butter
Cottage Cheese and Blueberries
Strawberries with Greek Yogurt
Cucumbers with light ranch dressing
Carrot sticks with hummus
Guacamole with Celery
Tomato with light mozzarella
Baked homemade sweet potato chips
100 calorie serving of nuts
Sliced turkey rolled with low fat cheese
Hard boiled egg
Greek Yogurt with Honey and Almonds
Carb Balance Tortilla (small) wrapped with turkey and raw veggies
FlatOut sandwich round with turkey pepperoni and low fat mozzarella
Our #1 snacking tip: Don’t buy unhealthy snacks!
If you only have healthy snacks around, you can only snack on healthy things!
If you need some more inspiration, check out our “Snack” board on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/aspenclinicLA/snacks/