National dietary surveys have found that about 90% of adults, 83% of adolescents, and 97% of children snack every day, sometimes several times per day. All of this snacking between meals contributes to about one-quarter of total calories, the equivalent of a fourth meal. Unfortunately, these aren’t always nutrient-dense calories. Many of the most common snacks, such as chips, cookies, and sodas are high in both salt and sugar, but lack protein. Research suggests that including protein in snacks can increase satiety and aid in weight loss, making it a valuable addition to a healthy snack. Snacks can fit into a healthy eating plan and provide an energy boost in between meals as long as they are planned and executed correctly. Follow the tips below to make snacking a smart habit:
Snacks for people who are less active should not exceed 200 calories. For those who are more active, stick to 200-300 calories per snack serving.
Fixing snacks in advance can save time later on and makes it less likely for people to grab a convenient snack on the go (most of which are calorie-rich and nutrient poor). Identify several nutrient dense snacks that are enjoyable and convenient and keep it on hand. If necessary, pre-portion snacks into small bags or containers to prevent overconsumption.
Avoid snacking while bored
Eating out of boredom or for emotional reasons can lead to overconsumption and weight gain. Prior to digging in, rate your hunger to avoid mindless eating. Try using the time for something more productive, like knitting, gardening, reading, etc.
Read Food Labels
Many people mistakenly identify nutrient-poor snacks as healthy choices. A quick look at the nutrition facts label on the package can help determine the amount of sodium and sugar in a serving. The new Nutrition Facts label will quantify the amount of added sugars, allowing consumers to easily identify foods high in this category. Until then, look at the ingredients for forms of added sugars, such as corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and honey.
Add a Protein
Add a protein to your snack to increase satiety and better control blood sugar. Studies have shown that protein-rich snacking may help improve appetite control and reduce subsequent food intake, thereby facilitating weight loss. Try the following suggestions for nutrient-dense high-protein snacks:
- Trail mix with whole grain cereals, nuts, or seeds and dried fruit
- Blend a smoothie by adding 1 cup skim milk, yogurt, and frozen fruits
- Roasted chickpeas with spices
- Vegetables with dip (using cottage cheese or plain Greek yogurt)
- Apple slices with peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter
- Crackers and peanut butter
- Pita with hummus or bean dip
- Yogurt parfait with fresh or frozen fruit and low-fat granola
- Instant oatmeal with skim milk, dried fruit, cinnamon, and honey
- Hard boiled eggs
- Tuna salad with crackers
- String cheese
By Jillian Klemm, Dietetic Internal