By Joy Bauer, MS, RD
Suffering from a snack attack? Sure, you can answer the call of your rumbling tummy with something from the office candy jar or vending machine, but don’t be surprised when you’re feeling sluggish and hungry (again!) shortly after. That’s because typical snack time nibbles—think chips, pretzels, candy, and cookies—contain mostly refined carbs, which give you a quick burst of energy but then lead to a crash that comes on just as quickly.
Nibble wisely, however, and you’ll score a number of benefits. For instance, a smart snack can help ease appetite so you arrive at the next meal hungry but not ravenous. This offers a one-two punch: You’ll be more likely to order something nutritious and less likely to overdo it. Plus, it will help you maintain your energy levels and even help stabilize your mood.
Consider this startling snacking statistic: Nearly a quarter of our calories now come from snacks. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t downsizing our regular meals to accommodate these calories, so in essence, we’ve added a “fourth meal” to our routine. Research suggests we’re consuming 580 calories from snacks—that’s a recipe for weight gain.
If you’re a regular snacker, make sure to follow a few easy guidelines. These will not only keep your calories—and weight—in check, but also help you get the most out of those between-meal munchies.
1 Check calories: Snacks should contain no more than 200 calories. Any more than that and you’re slowly approaching meal territory.
2 Get the nutrients you need: For a snack that energizes and satisfies, choose something with protein or fiber—or ideally, both. These power nutrients can stabilize your blood sugar levels, which helps keep you feeling full and focused for the long haul.
1 Create a snack stash: What good is knowing what to eat if you don’t have it on hand when you need a boost? Always stay ahead of hunger by keeping a healthy snack stash in your office, purse, car, or book bag.
Best On-the-Go Bites
Fruit with string cheese or nuts/seeds: It doesn’t get any easier than an apple and a string cheese.
Turkey jerky: These provide protein and take a long time to enjoy. You may want to look for lower sodium brands if you’re watching your intake.
Homemade trail mix: Combine whole-grain cereal, nuts or seeds and even a bit of dried fruit in a zip-top baggie for a simple and portable snack.
Granola bars: Be sure to check labels, as some brands can have more calories (and sugar) than a candy bar!
Hearty soups: Soup can be a very filling if you choose carefully. If you’re going for store-bought versions, check calories and opt for reduced-sodium varieties. Warm up, pour in a thermos, and enjoy!
Nut butter on rice cakes: Change it up by using different nut butters, like almond or cashew butter.
Apple PB ‘Wiches: Skip PB&J and give them PB&A instead.
Celery sticks with reduced-fat cream cheese: This crunchy and satisfying bite is easy to make and totally delicious.
Parmesan Popcorn: Four cups deliver about 5 grams heart-healthy fiber and only 120 calories (fewer calories than a single serving of chips).
Edamame: Steam a cup of these protein-rich, high-fiber soybeans for a tasty finger food the kids will gobble up.
Ice cream: Don’t spoon up just any ice cream, though. Try something deliciously healthy, like frozen, pureed bananas and peanut butter. Promise, it’s kid-approved!
Greek yogurt and fruit: Greek yogurt is a great choice because it contains more protein than traditional yogurt.
Hummus and veggies: It’s easy and packable.
By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.