When it comes to your health and diet, snacks play a key role. Choose right and you maintain a good energy level and avoid crashing mid-afternoon (plus you may even keep from gaining weight). All it takes is a bit of forethought and know-how.
Think snacking just means tossing something small into your handbag? Think again. Preparing a healthy snack calls for more than that. Here are five snack-smarter strategies.
First, rethink what a snack can be
Snacks should be quick and convenient, for sure, but who’s to say that half of a turkey sandwich isn’t a good snack before you go to the gym? After all, aren’t you tired of the celery and peanut butter combo you’ve been nibbling on for ages? Wake up your tastebuds and you’ll find you’ll be looking forward to snack time. Ideally, a snack should be approximately 200 calories.
Be prepared — keep snacks at the ready
When your tummy starts to grumble, it’s just so simple to go to the coffee shop and get that danish. Keep a healthy snack nearby at all times — some trail mix in your handbag or in your office drawer — and chances are you won’t make the danish trip after all.
Make sure your snacks are full of nutrients
When planning your snacks, try to ensure they each have protein (so you feel full), a bit of fat and perhaps some fibre. Baby carrots are easy to throw into a sandwich bag, but pop them into a small container with some hummus to dip it in and you’ve upped the protein and heart-healthy fats. Is it salt you crave? Replace potato chips with some shelled edamame and you’re getting protein and fibre (and you’ll avoid the crash you always experience after scarfing down chips). Top Greek yogurt (a protein powerhouse when compared to conventional yogurt) with berries and nuts and you’re getting antioxidants and good fats, too. A good rule of thumb is to try to include two of the four food groups in each snack.
Watch your snack portions
While keeping some trail mix handy is a great idea, be aware of how much you’re eating; a handful of trail mix is sufficient. Mindlessly pick at the bag and soon you’ll have eaten a large bowlful — and your snack has now become a meal, calorie-wise. That’s why it’s better to portion it out ahead of time if you can, in a sandwich bag or small container.
Avoid drinking your snacks
Drinking your snack is less likely to give you a sense of fullness than eating a snack would. So, instead of orange juice, eat an orange instead. The exception is water: In fact, many nutritionists recommend drinking water when you think you are hungry. You may only be dehydrated, and water will quench your thirst with zero calories.