We’re a society of snackers, using quick grab-and-go bites to get us through long, hectic days. For example, 1 in 6 adults gets more than 40% of their daily calories from snacks alone. Serving as meal replacements and filling the gaps in our days when there isn’t enough time to cook, snacks help curb appetite, boost energy and possibly control weight by sustaining our metabolism throughout the day. If done right, a healthy snack or two can prevent you from overeating during your next meal.
However, we often snack to satisfy a craving, like those for sugar, salt or chocolate. But with the right approach, you can use snacks as a tool to achieve your weight-loss goals. Try these tips to get started on a path toward smarter snacking habits.
1. FIVE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER
Pick a snack with at least 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. Snacks that are nutrient-packed will leave you feeling satisfied and energized, and satiate your hunger until your next meal. These snacks are especially important when you’re feeling that mid-afternoon crash — instead of reaching for an empty-calorie coffee drink or bag of chips, try one of these ideas: roasted edamame, tuna on whole-grain crackers or almond butter on apple slices.
2. CHOOSE LOW-SUGAR SNACK OPTIONS
A rush of simple sugar causes blood-sugar levels to rise and crash quickly — leaving you unsatisfied and craving even more sugar. This vicious cycle can result in overeating and weight gain. Try some of these easy low-sugar snack options: hummus and vegetable sticks, pistachios, roasted chickpeas or string cheese.
3. GET A BOOST OF PRODUCE
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults consume 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily. Americans often fall short of this goal — averaging only 1.1 cups of fruit and 1.6 cups of vegetables per day. Snack time is the perfect opportunity to boost these numbers. Try a fruit and kale smoothie, fresh fruit slices with nut butter or sliced vegetables.
READ MORE > WHAT 200-CALORIE SNACKS LOOK LIKE
4. SNACK MINDFULLY
When you’re distracted by work, the television or surfing the internet, it’s easy to mindlessly overeat. Pause what you’re doing for an intentional snack break, and eat your snack as if it was a small meal.
5. PACK SNACKS WITH YOU
When you’re at home, healthy snacks might be at your fingertips. But at the office, it’s easy to cave to vending machines and other office treats. Portion vegetables, fruit or nuts into snack bags to bring with you so you’re prepared no matter when a snack craving hits. This tip also applies to road trips and air travel — save money and snack healthier by bringing your own snacks with you.
6. FOCUS ON WHOLE GRAINS
If you’re craving something crunchy and salty, opt for whole-grain, air-popped popcorn or a high-fiber, whole-grain cereal. Pair whole-grain tortilla chips with fresh salsa for a boost of vegetables.
The bottom line: Grazing on foods that don’t have much nutritional value can lead to dissatisfaction and overeating, but snacks can also be used as a tool for sustained energy and weight management. Snack right by choosing foods that add a boost of nutrition to your day, give you energy to keep your body going between meals and help you reach your weight-loss goal.
What’s your favorite healthy snack? Comment below!