Fruits, veggies, protein top options when the snack monster shows up

Carol Slager

I’m guessing that most people do.

Consider what foods you think about when you hear the word, “snacks.” Potato chips, cookies, ice cream, candy and many other processed foods typically come to mind. At some point in the day, we’re bound to get hungry, and it may not be quite the right time for a meal. That’s where the conflict between eating healthier and taming the snack monster comes into play. Being prepared with an assortment of snack foods that fit your health criteria is key.

The goals of the ideal snack are to sustain your energy, reduce hunger, prevent over-eating at the next meal and maintain proper blood sugar. Some people feel better and maintain a healthy weight by incorporating a snack or two into their day. Others prefer to eat three or fewer meals per day. In the final analysis, snacking is neither good nor bad, since everyone is different. What does matter is the kind of snack you choose.

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Many snack foods are processed, high in sugar and carbohydrates and, in the case of drinks, loaded with caffeine. As tempting as these tasty treats may be, especially when combined with a fun social scene, it’s best to take a pass. These options may give you a boost for an hour or two, then cause a letdown that sends you back to the snack drawer. These types of foods often make weight maintenance or loss more challenging. Examples include pastries, chips and dip, fried foods, processed meats such as hot dogs and foods containing trans fats.

An ideal snack is lower in carbohydrates and higher in fiber, protein and healthy fat. Examples include a couple hard-boiled eggs, half cup of Greek yogurt with berries, handful of raw nuts, apple slices with a spoonful or two of nut or seed butter, small tossed salad with olive oil and lemon juice, avocado slices, veggies and hummus The idea is to keep the serving-size smaller than a typical meal. By choosing snacks such as these, you’ll avoid spikes in blood sugar while quelling the hunger monster.

Sometimes we snack out of boredom, habit or because someone near and dear is munching. Before you join in, determine whether you are truly hungry. You may be dehydrated and in need of water, so try that first. If you’re joining in to be social, nibbling a smaller amount will probably suffice. Be conscious of what and why you’re choosing to eat.

If your evening routine includes watching television, you’ll probably see a few enticing food ads. Before you hit the kitchen, review your day to determine whether you’ve met your nutritional quota during mealtimes. Perhaps you need to make some adjustments to your meals and include more protein, vegetables and healthy fats (nuts, olives, seeds, avocados) to sustain you.

Stress also can trigger a desire to eat. Instead of hitting the fridge, do something relaxing such as reading, enjoying nature or stretching. Try to finish your last meal/snack of the day two-three hours before going to bed. This allows for proper digestion and quality sleep. If a later snack is the right choice, make it count toward improving your nutrition for the day. Avoid anything heavy or high in sugar that will disrupt your sleep.

There are those moments when we go for the sweet, salty or combo snack. For those times, it’s best to first eat something with some protein or even a small salad, so you’re not starving when you go for the salty sweet stuff. This will help reduce non-nutritional calories as well as the guilt. When it’s time for your next meal, choose wisely again. Healthy snacking, like anything, takes practice.

Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly in Get Healthy and at Opinions expressed are the writer’s.


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