Snacking for Success

February is National Snack Food Month. A snack is generally defined as any food consumed between main meals. Snacking can be a real plus when it comes to maintaining a balanced diet. A quick bite can provide a quick boost of energy and keep blood sugar levels in check.

Snacking helps keep appetites at bay and may prevent overeating at mealtime. When choosing healthful items like fresh fruits, whole grains and vegetables, snacking is a vehicle for essential nutrients. For growing children, teens and some adults, snacks are necessary to help maintain adequate nutrition. 

There are various motivations for snacking, from hunger and boredom to indulgence and stress. Snacks have morphed into mini-meals and can contribute to the intake of highly processed, calorically dense foods. Mindless snacking can reduce hunger at mealtime leading to erratic eating behaviors and lead to an overall decline in diet quality and health.

Meal planning is key in maintaining a healthy diet and this concept can be applied to snacking as well. To get a handle on your snacking behaviors, determining why you are looking for a snack, when you are looking for a bite and what you typically reach for between meals. 

Perhaps you are doing “all the right things”. Pat yourself on the back and continue on your healthy path. However, maybe there are some quick tweaks that can help keep you on a smoother course.


If snacking occurs frequently during the day, ask yourself if you are truly hungry. When was your last meal? Did you eat enough? If it has been a few hours, a snack is warranted. Consider when your next meal may be and plan your snack accordingly. However, if you are eating because of emotional reasons, such as stress, boredom, or anger, this requires a bit more thought and mindfulness. 


When you are snacking likely correlates with why you are snacking. If you feel your snacking habits are out of control or if you just want to “clean things up” a bit, it is helpful to keep a journal to identify certain trends and habits.

What hours of the day do you tend to grab extra food?  Does this happen more frequently in the evening or weekends?  Are you more likely to snack when you are tired?  Do you snack less when you have meals planned out and prepared in advance? 


It is important that any snack not only be enjoyable, but also satisfying enough to alleviate hunger and cravings. Studies show that snacking on “whole foods” that contain protein, fiber and whole grains will enhance satiety.  

  • Highly processed foods and those foods high in sugar may provide a quick fix, but they may not offer much in the way of staying power. 
  • Before making a snack choice, consider what you have a taste for. For example, if you are looking for something crunchy, smooth yogurt may not quite quiet your hunger.
  • A snack portion should be enough to satisfy, but not so much it interferes with your appetite for the next meal. 
  • Sometimes hunger can be confused with thirst. Try drinking a glass of water when hunger calls.
  • A general rule of thumb is to aim for about 150-200 calories per snack. However, this should be considered on an individual basis. If you are eating in an hour, a 100 calorie apple may do the trick. If you are exercising after lunch and eating a late dinner, you might grab a nutrition bar on the run that provides closer to 250 calories.
  • If choosing a packaged snack, such as chips or nuts, read the label to determine the portion size. It is easy to eat more than one serving if you are not careful.
  • Combining different food groups that contain carbohydrates, proteins and fats is often more satisfying and provides more satiety than just eating a single macronutrient. 

Check out some of these great snack ideas: 

  • For crunchy snacks:  Cut up some raw veggies and enjoy with this Honey Dijon Hummus or these Baked Apple Crisps
  • For creamy snacks: Enjoy this flavorful Guacamole with baked tortilla chips or this Fruit and Yogurt Parfait that includes healthy oats and almonds. 
  • For the sweet tooth:  These Fig Bars are a perfect grab-and-go snack. Or bite into a whole wheat Cinnamon Muffin, topped with just a touch of sugar. Baked Pears are a perfect alternative for a sweet yet healthy mid-afternoon craving. 
  • For savory and salty tastes: This Trail Mix is another on-the-run snack that offers the perfect combination of sweet raisins, crunchy pretzels, peanuts and kick of dark chocolate. Or for a quick bread, these savory Spinach and Feta muffins fit the bill.

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