Choosing Healthy Snacks

Written by: Kimberly A. Tessmer, RDN, LD

We have all experienced the dreaded snack attack.  Whether it be after a hard workout, late afternoon at the office or lounging in front of the television after a long day.  The question is, how do we best handle a snack attack.  Is it acceptable to snack between meals and still stay faithful to your weight management program?

The good news is, if approached in the proper way, snacking can be a good strategy for weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight and contributing to your overall daily nutritional needs.  There are no explicit “rules” when it comes to snacking.  Snacking should be an individualized strategy of combining foods from two or more food groups to help promote satiety, provide energy and essential nutrients and keep you satisfied longer between meals.  Getting to your next meal without the feeling of those intense hunger pangs can be a big help in controlling what you eat and how much you eat at that next meal.

The key to snacking is to be mindful and plan them ahead of time. But be sure to also have healthy foods on hand when that snack attack sneaks up on you.  Keep unhealthy, high calorie foods such as sweets and chips out of the house so they don’t tempt you in a moment of weakness.  It is when you eat based on cravings alone that snacking can become detrimental to your weight loss efforts.  Common triggers for unplanned snacking can include stress, emotions, dehydration, skipping meals, and low blood sugar.  Planning for snacks can help to keep these triggers in check.

Snacks don’t have to be complicated. There are tons of healthy delicious ideas. Here are a few tips to follow 

Plan for Protein: pairing a protein with a starch and/or carbohydrate can help to boost your energy and satisfy you longer.

  • Apple with nut butter
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Greek yogurt and granola
  •  Mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes
  •  Hummus and cucumbers or other fresh veggies
  • Low-fat cheese on whole grain crackers
  • Hard boiled egg and whole wheat English muffin
  • Almonds and part-skim mozzarella cheese stick

Keep the Sweets to a Minimum: snacking on sweets with no nutritional value will leave you feeling drained.  Substitute healthy sweet flavored foods for those with empty calories.

  • Fruit
  • Chocolate soy or almond milk
  • Dark chocolate (1.5 0z)
  • Frozen Grapes
  • Kind Bar or Lara Bar
  • Whole grain cereal and berries with unsweetened almond milk
  • Graham cracker topped with peanut butter
  • Frozen yogurt or sorbet
  • Protein smoothie made with fruit (frozen fruit works great)

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3242470/
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/eating-frequency-and-weight-loss
  3. https://www.womensrunning.com/2016/10/nutrition/5-reasons-snack-attacks-manage_66206
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/healthy-diet/art-20046267
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