Snacking with Sense

February is National Snack Food Month and a great opportunity to focus on healthy snacking. Snacking often gets a bad rap but eating throughout the day can lead to a healthier diet overall. Think of snacking as an opportunity to meet dietary recommendations for fruit and vegetables, fiber and grains, proteins and healthy fats. Preparing for healthy snacks in advance can help to keep blood sugars and mood in check and prevent unwanted binges when hunger sets in. Studies show that healthful snacking may contribute to a healthier weight and more balanced intake.

Change the narrative on snacking from mindless munching to energy boosting by following these simple snacking tips:

  • When it comes to meal planning, be sure to include snacks in your daily routine.
    • Avoid long gaps of time without eating or drinking. Listen to your body for hunger cues such as a growling stomach, being lightheaded or hangry!
    • Well-timed snacks will not ruin an appetite but grazing on snacks all day may interfere with hunger level, disrupting regularly planned meals.
    • In general, snacking time does not matter as much as what and how much is being consumed. A light, nutrient dense snack before bedtime may be fine, but avoid indulging in sweets and treats.
  • A snack portion should be enough to satisfy, but not so much that it interferes with your upcoming meal.
    • A snack ranging in calories from 100 to 250 allows for a wide variety of options that can meet multiple levels of hunger and needs.
      • For example, these Banana Muffins have about 150 calories each and can be enjoyed with a glass of low-fat milk for a satisfying snack any time of the day.
    • If choosing a packaged snack such as crackers, dried fruit, or nuts, be sure to read the nutrition label for portion sizes and calories.
    • Be sure to consider activity level and energy needs when choosing a snack, including nutrition composition and quantity.
    • Combine a variety of food groups when possible. Make an effort to mix up fruits, veggies and grains with healthy fats and proteins. This will provide much more staying power over a snack that is highly processed or full of sugar.
      • Studies show that snacking on whole foods containing protein, fiber, and whole grains (e.g., nuts, yogurt, popcorn) enhance satisfaction.
      • With protein in every bite, these Peanut Butter Oat Squares are the perfect pick-me-up for a mid-day snack.
    • It is great when snacks are convenient, easy to assemble and portable. This Trail Mix that includes sweet raisins, crunchy pretzels and peanuts and dark chocolate is the perfect on-the-go snack.
  • Everyone is different: Decide which snack choices will satisfy you.
    • A satisfying snack will be enjoyable, alleviate hunger, and keep you content until the next meal.
    • If you do not have a specific craving but are trying to quiet hunger, choose a snack that is high in fiber and water.
    • If you do have a specific food craving, choose your snack accordingly.
      • Crunchy—raw vegetable sticks, nuts, seeds, whole grain crackers, apple
      • Creamy—cottage cheese, yogurt, hummus, avocado
      • Sweet—chopped fresh fruit, dark chocolate
      • Savory/Salty—cube or slice of cheese, roasted chickpeas, handful of nuts, nut butter
    • Don’t overthink your snacks. Try to keep it simple. It isn’t necessary to consume every food group and nutrient for a snack to be healthy. It’s about the big picture, not micromanaging calories or specific ingredients.

Whatever your mood, there is a snack for you. Snacks can satisfy cravings, help you watch your weight, boost your metabolism, and even help you deal with moods.

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