You know the phrase, “Keep it simple, stupid?” That phrase is the key to smart snacking. By choosing simple, but enjoyable foods with quality ingredients, you’ll feel like a genius every time you stop for a quick snack break.
Focus on nutrient-dense foods
Last I checked, foods like cookies, candy, soda and chips weren’t chock full of healthy nutrients. When you fail to use every snack opportunity to fuel your body, you may find yourself lacking the energy necessary to make it through the day. Laurie Beebe, a registered dietitian, suggests that you “Look for a snack that has less than 200 calories and provides a good source, at least 10 percent, of an essential nutrient.” This may sound confusing, but the best way to follow through is to eat whole foods like fruit, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs and so forth. Foods that come directly from plant or animal sources are practically guaranteed to offer at least 10 percent of an essential nutrient.
Watch your portions
It’s really easy to turn a 200-calorie snack into a 600-calorie snack by failing to pay attention to serving sizes. If you’re eating a prepackaged item, make sure you note how many servings are contained within the package to determine how much of the food qualifies as a serving. A perfect example is the small sleeves of nuts you can pick up from convenience stores – a single serving may contain 200 calories, but each sleeve may contain 2.5 or three servings. If you eat the whole thing, you’ve instantly eaten 500 or 600 calories. To avoid the risk of overeating, portion out the amount you want to consume and place it in a separate bowl, then put the package away. The harder you make it on yourself to go back for seconds, the more likely you’ll stick to your healthy snacking plan.
There’s absolutely no point in forcing yourself to snack on a healthy food that you don’t enjoy. If you hate celery and peanut butter, don’t force yourself to eat it just because the latest diet book says you “should.” When you snack on foods you actually enjoy, you end up feeling more satisfied and less inclined to overeat later.
There is one catch. This rule does not give you carte blanche to snack on Chips Ahoy! and French fries – you still need to make sure that your snacks are nutrient-dense and portion-controlled. So, instead of chowing down on your cubicle-mate’s gummy worm stash, opt for a cup of strawberries drizzled in melted dark chocolate or a bowl of popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese. You may be surprised at how satisfied you feel when you snack on food that tastes good and is good for you.
Keep healthy snacks handy
If you don’t have healthy snacks handy when your stomach starts to grumble, you’ll probably have a hard time sticking to a healthy snack plan. Keep easily-transportable snacks like granola bars, cheese sticks and fresh fruit with you at all times. If you plan on carrying snack bars with you, just be careful about the type of bar you pack – look for bars made of whole grains, rolled oats and other real ingredients. Bars like Nature’s Path and Corazonas both make the cut.