By Kristen Carli RD
Snacks can be a great way to boost your energy mid-day or hold you over between meals. Snacks can be part of any diet, but they can also derail your healthy eating plan or weight management goals.
So what strategies can you use to make healthy choices and stay on track?
#1 Don't Skip Meals
Skipping meals might seem like a good way to reduce calories and lose weight, but it usually just leads to overeating snack foods later in the day. It’s better to eat well-balanced meals regularly throughout the day. Avoid skipping meals and ignoring physical hunger cues. If you fuel your body properly throughout the day, you won’t find yourself ravenously ransacking the cupboards at the end of the night.
#2 Practice mindful snacking
Have you ever sat down in front of the TV or computer with a bag of chips or crackers, and before you know it you’ve eaten more than half the bag? This mindless eating can lead to overindulgence and the consumption of excess calories. If you can, take a break from what you’re doing to enjoy a snack. Another option is to take only a serving of whatever snack you’re having instead of the whole bag. Be mindful while you’re eating. Pay attention to how the food makes you feel. Are you enjoying it? Are you satisfied? Consider whether the snack is fulfilling your hunger, and stop eating when you’re full.
#3 Take healthy snacks with you
Be prepared and pack healthy snacks that you can take with you to eat on-the-go. If you plan ahead and have healthy snacks on hand that you actually like, you’ll be more likely to make healthy snack choices. If you pack perishable snacks, be sure to use an insulated lunch box with ice packs. If you’d prefer not to carry a lunch box, choose nonperishable snack options.
#4 Zero in on your hunger
When hunger strikes, pay attention to whether your hunger is physical. Be aware of those cues from your body that tell you it physically needs fuel. Signs of physical hunger include an empty-feeling stomach, stomach growling, headache, lack of energy, and irritability.
Eating when you’re not physically hungry (out of boredom or for emotional reasons) can lead to overeating and unintended weight gain.
#5 Choose nutritious foods to create a well-balanced snack
To create a well-balanced snack, combine a fruit, vegetable or carbohydrate with a protein. Choosing fruits and vegetables as part of your snack can help increase the number of servings you get each day.
Low-fat cottage cheese with fruit
Greek yogurt with fruit
Apple slices with nut butter
Vegetables and hummus
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Snacks can fit into any healthy eating plan, and they are a great way to provide an energy boost between meals. It’s important not to skip meals because this can lead to hunger later in the day and usually results in overindulging on snack foods.
Pay attention to hunger cues and avoid eating out of boredom or for emotional reasons. When you snack, be mindful of how you feel. It’s important to choose healthy snack options more frequently than not. If you know in advance that you may not have access to healthy snack options, pack some snacks to take with you on-the-go.
Kristen Carli is a registered dietitian and the owner of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness in Phoenix, Arizona.
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