A major source of calories in the American diet is the snack. What is the definition of a snack? Generally, it is a small amount of food or drink that is consumed between regular meals. A snack is meant to provide necessary nutrients for your body. Snacks, when consumed every 3-5 hours (or between meals) can help control blood sugar, appetite and keep you energized by supplying the body with the fuel it needs. Snacking is beneficial when done in moderation and when making healthy choices.
Healthy (or "smart") snacks do not have to be boring either! You'd be surprised at how tasty some of these snacks are and how easy they are to carry around with you (especially if you're always on the go!). Healthy snacking:
● Provides a wide variety of nutrients (e.g., protein, vitamins, fiber)
● Prevents overeating
● Provides energy during the late afternoon (you know that period of the day when you feel like you just want to take a nap 😴)
● Increases metabolism. I often tell clients, "You have to eat to lose weight"
● Increases concentration
● Increases energy so you remain active
● Controls blood sugar - Blood sugar drops 3-5 hours after you eat; frequent snacking helps normalize blood sugar
Healthy snacks have the following characteristics:
1) A combination of carbohydrates (with fiber) and protein
2) 100-200 calories per serving
3) Low in saturated fat - The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 5-6% of daily calories from saturated fat. For example, a person consuming 1800 calories per day should have no more than 10-12 grams of saturated fat.
4) Low in sodium (< 200 milligrams per serving)
5) Low in "added" sugars - Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when processed or prepared (not to be confused with the naturally occurring sugars in fruits and milk). The AHA recommends no more than 36 grams and 25 grams of added sugars per day for men and women, respectively. To make life easier, the new food label (SEE BELOW) actually includes the amount of added sugar in a product ----- another reason to read those food labels!!
When snacking, know the difference between SERVING SIZE and PORTION SIZE!! These are NOT the same...
SERVING: A unit of measure used to describe the amount of food or beverage recommended; it is a fixed size.
PORTION: The amount of a specific food or beverage you choose to eat; it can be bigger or smaller than the recommended serving size.
It is okay to snack and not feel bad about doing it! (I snack 2-3 times a day😊) But it's up to you to be "smart" about your snack choices. For those of you in a snacking rut, check out these smart snacks:
10 multigrain Wheat Thins + 1 oz low-fat string cheese
1/2 cup sugar snap peas + 2 Tbsp hummus
1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese + 1/2 cup sliced peaches (in fruit juice)
1 small banana or 1 medium sliced apple + 1 Tbsp nut butter
2 Tbsp dried fruit + 1/4 cup unsalted almonds
1/2 cup whole grain Goldfish crackers + 1 medium apple
1/2 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup low-fat granola or 1/2 cup fresh berries
1 stalk celery + 1 Tbsp nut butter + 2 Tbsp raisins
1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese + 1/2 cup fresh pineapple
1 cup raw broccoli or cauliflower + 3 Tbsp fat-free Ranch dressing
Bell pepper slices + 3 Tbsp hummus or fat-free Ranch dressing
10 baby carrots + 3 Tbsp hummus OR 2 Tbsp nut butter OR 2 Tbsp fat-free Ranch dressing
1 oz unsalted nuts + 2 Tbsp dried fruit
1 stalk celery + 2 Tbsp light cream cheese + 1 Tbsp raisins
1/2 oz baked tortilla chips + 2 Tbsp hummus
3/4 oz baked tortilla chips + 1/4 cup salsa
1 toasted whole grain waffle + 1 Tbsp apple butter
4 Graham cracker squares + 1 Tbsp nut butter
1 Tbsp unsalted sunflower seeds + 2 Tbsp raisins
3 cups air popped popcorn + 2 Tbsp unsalted nuts
1 low-fat granola bar
1 whole light multigrain English muffin + 1 Tbsp nut butter
1 boiled egg + 1 slice whole grain toast + 1 tsp margarine
1 cup small grapes + 1 oz low-fat string cheese
1 plain rice cake + 2 Tbsp nut butter
1/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt + 2 tsp honey + 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 crushed Graham cracker squares + 1/2 cup sugar-free pudding
1 oz unsalted mini pretzels + 1 Tbsp low-fat honey mustard
Homemade trail mix (1/2 cup multigrain cereal + 1/4 cup dried fruit)
1 cup sliced strawberries dipped in 1 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
1 slice whole grain toast topped with 1 oz goat cheese + 1/4 cup raspberries
1 cup mango cubes topped with 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 rice cake topped with 1 Tbsp nut butter + 1 Tbsp fruit spread
1 oz dried blueberries + 1 oz unsalted almonds
So, before you reach for that snack, make sure you read the food label (if applicable) to see if it is truly the smart thing to do! Remember, just because a label reads "organic", "healthy", or "nutritious" does not necessarily mean it is so!!
Thanks for reading,