How to: Healthy Snacking
Snacks can fit into a healthy eating plan as they can provide an energy boost, help curb hunger between meals, and prevent over eating at the next meal. Including nutritious foods from the MyPlate food groups can help increase variety and reduce sources of empty calories and added sugar in your diet. When planning your snacks be sure to make choices that are: smart, small, and satisfying to help you stay on track.
Snack only when you are hungry. Try to be mindful of this and avoid snacking when you are feeling bored, stressed, or sad. It can be more difficult to keep your snacks small and choose healthier options like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains when you are snacking for reasons other than hunger.
Make the decision easy by having snacks planned and pre-portioned out ahead of time can keep your snacking healthy. For example, keep washed and pre-cut fruits and vegetables, plain air-popped popcorn, and low-fat cheese sticks on hand to save time later on and make it easier for you to choose a healthier option.
Keep snacks small - or 200 calories or less. Think of snacks as extra nutritional insurance. Very few people get all of the whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low fat dairy products that they should from meals alone. Snacks are a way to make up for these deficits. Refer to the Healthy Eating Ideas below that are 200 calories or less for new options to try.
Choose snack options that are fulfilling and nutrient dense. Snacks that contain protein and/or fiber will keep you full for a longer period of time and help you avoid high calorie temptations like: ice cream, cookies, or potato chips as snacks. For example, a few plain saltine crackers will not provide you with much fulfillment compared to a few whole grain crackers with thin slices of low-fat cheese topped and cucumber slices.
Healthy Snacking Ideas that are 200 calories or less:
- Make your own trail mix by combining whole grain cereals, nuts or seeds and dried fruit. (Hint: portion into ¼ cup servings).
- Blend your own smoothie by adding 1 cup low-free milk and frozen fruit to a blender.
- Mix 3 cups plain air-popped popcorn with grated cheese or dried spices.
- Bake vegetable chips, like kale or beets.
- Cut up fruit to make kebobs and serve with low-fat yogurt dip.
- Slice a medium apple and eat with 1tablespoon of peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter.
- Whip up a quesadilla in the microwave using a whole wheat tortilla, ¼ cup black beans, 1-2 tablespoons low-fat cheese and 1 ounce of salsa.
- Cut a whole wheat pita into wedges and serve with 2 tablespoons of hummus or bean dip.
About the Author
Lemma Brown is a registered dietitian nutritionist, graduate of West Virginia University and Meredith College, and clinical dietitian specializing in bariatric nutrition at Sentara RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Lemma is passionate about nutrition and exercise for sustained weight loss and overall good health.