Some people think that snacking can sabotage your healthy eating and weight management plan. However, snacking keeps your energy levels up, and prevents you from becoming overly hungry, which can lead to poor food choices. Eating every three to four hours can also help regulate your metabolism, which ensures that you burn calories throughout the day. Strive for at least two small snacks per day, but try to limit yourself to 100 to 150 calories or less per snack.
Also, be sure your snack is balanced: it should offer complex carbohydrates for energy, protein for muscle building and repair, and a small amount of fat for satiety. You can ensure nutritional balance and prevent snack boredom by varying your daily choices.
The Benefits of Snacks
You may feel guilty about snacking, but snacks aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, mini meals several times a day can be beneficial. Here’s how:
- Binge control: If eating several low-fat, whole-grain crackers, a few pretzels, a piece of fruit, or some raw vegetables keeps you from taking second or third helpings at your next meal, you may actually consume fewer total calories for the day.
- Extra energy and nutrients: Traditional, made-at-home meals often lose out to busy schedules. A grab-and-go snack can be the difference between some nourishment and none at all.
- Satisfaction for small appetites: Young children’s tiny stomachs can hold only small portions of food at a time. Older adults who are less active and who burn fewer calories also may feel comfortable eating smaller meals more frequently.
Healthy Snack Choices
Here are some great snack choices:
- 6 oz. fat-free yogurt topped with 1 cup of berries
- ¾ cup whole-grain cereal with nut and dried-fruit trail mix
- 1 apple and 1 oz. low-fat cheese
- 1 cup yogurt smoothie made with real fruit
- 1 oz. baked tortilla chips with ¼ cup bean dip
- 2 oz. low-fat cheese on 5 whole-grain crackers
- 1 whole-wheat tortilla with 1 oz. melted cheese and ¼ cup salsa
- 1 cup raw vegetables and 2 Tbsp. low-fat dip or hummus
- 1 Tbsp. nut butter on a banana
- 1 cup berries topped with ¼ cup low-fat granola cereal
- ¼ cup whole-grain cereal and ¼ cup raisins with ¼ cup skim milk
- ¾ cup pasta salad made with raw veggies, cheese, and low-fat dressing
- ¼ pita pocket stuffed with raw vegetables and 1 slice low-fat cheese
- 1 cup low-fat vegetable-bean soup
- ½ turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread
- 1 handful almonds and ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup cottage cheese and ½ cup pineapple
- ½ peanut butter/banana sandwich on whole-grain bread
- ½ toasted whole wheat English muffin topped with a slice of tomato and low-fat cheese
For more tips on eating well and feeling great, especially after age 40, check out this post.