Ask anyone who knows me well, and they’ll tell you that I loooove me some snacks! If I have one dietary downfall, it’s snacking. By a long shot.
When done right, snacking is a great way to fuel up in between meals. But the kind of snacking I’m talking about (and which I’m guilty of) usually involves processed, nutrient-poor foods eaten mindlessly for reasons other than hunger.
I enjoy salty/crunchy nibbles like white cheese popcorn, pretzels, and goldfish crackers, and I tend to snack on them in the evening while watching TV. Of course, enjoying some indulgent treats every once in a while is fine, but the majority of the time it’s best to practice smart snacking. And by smart, I mean mindfully, purposefully, and nutritiously.
Easier said than done, right? Because I constantly need to remind myself to snack smarter, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the tricks I use (plus a recipe for tasty cucumber boats) so that you too can nosh a little more nutritiously:
- Choose snacks that are inherently lower in calories and high in dietary fiber, protein, healthy fats and essential nutrients. Think plain popcorn flavored with a little olive oil and curry powder, baby carrots and hummus, or cucumber spears and baba ghanoush. Whenever possible, avoid processed, pre-packaged foods—even those that have health-related claims splashed all over the label.
- That being said, if you do decide to opt for a processed snack, be sure to read the nutrition facts table, look at the serving size and then portion out the treat accordingly. Companies use unrealistically small amounts of food to calculate the calories, fat, sodium and everything else you see in that table. Would you really eat just 26 potato chips in one sitting? If not, it’s helpful to know that that’s all you need to eat to hit the 260 calories listed on the label. If this isn’t enough to convince you to downsize your snack, consider this: the entire bag of my favorite brand of chips contains well over 1000 calories. Yikes! Which brings me to the next tip…
- Use a bowl! Your brain won’t get the signal that you’re getting full if you can’t see what you’re eating. Ditch the family-size bag and put a handful or two (or whatever amount you’ve portioned out according to the nutrition info) in a shallow bowl or on a small plate. It really does work, and the only way to understand is to try it for yourself!
- Drink water or plain tea while snacking. It will help you feel full, give your fingers something to do rather than reach for the next helping, and help counteract the bloating effect of the excessive sodium found in your salty, crunchy treat of choice.
- This next tip is the most obvious of all, yet it is my greatest challenge personally: Ask yourself if you’re actually hungry. Sometimes I am legitimately hungry after 8 p.m., but most of the time, I’m just craving a snack because I'm binge-watching Orange is the New Black. If you’re being honest with yourself and find that you’re not truly hungry, pour yourself a mug of hot tea— it’s the perfect soothing treat to curl up with in the evening.
And now for the recipe. These cucumber boats with Greek yogurt and "everything bagel" seasoning are a healthy, nutritious, and filling snack choice. They also come together in lightning speed—perfect for when you’ve just finished an episode on Netflix and are waiting for the 17-second timer to start counting down to the next episode. Well, maybe it takes a tad longer than 17 seconds to prep these cucumber boats, but I think you get what I’m saying.
Have I mentioned yet that "everything bagel" seasoning is completely awesome? This recipe makes enough to store in a jar for later use, and could probably stretch a few weeks, depending on how much you use it. It’ also great sprinkled over cottage cheese for a bit of crunch and kick of flavor.
Jennifer Andrews, B.Sc., M.Sc.
Nutritional scientist // Marketing professional // Food blogger
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