Snacking has a bad “wrap” mostly due to the fact that people are doing it in the wrong way. Snacking on high-fat, empty-calorie foods can not only pack on the pounds, but also starve your body of essential nutrients. Empty-calorie snack foods like potato chips, cookies, candies and soda pop can leave you feeling unsatisfied and craving more.
If you snack smart (read: healthy), you’ll reap many benefits including controlled blood glucose levels, stable metabolism and a reduction in overeating at the end of the day. Since empty-calorie foods do not provide vitamins, minerals, protein or fiber, you’re often left hungry after eating them, therefore more likely to graze on more unhealthy options.
When is the best time to snack?
The perfect time to snack throughout the day is between meals. If you have more than four hours between your meals, a snack may be a good idea. Another time that is prime for snacking is before or after workouts. This will provide the energy to get your body through the workout and will replenish carbohydrate stores upon completion.
What are the best snacks?
When choosing snacks, follow these 8 tips for smart snacking:
- Consume whole grain or whole wheat products. When it comes to starchy snacks, be sure it is made with 100% whole grain product, which can be found on the ingredients list. Sometimes it can be confusing but smart snacking is much easier once you learn how to read food labels.
- Choose snacks that are high in fiber. About 5 grams or more per serving is optimal.
- Select fruits if you have a sweet tooth. They can be just as satisfying as a sweet treat without the added calories and sugar.
- Pick vegetables. Veggies, especially fresh ones, are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Varying colors can help give your body a wide range of nutrients.
- Lean towards low fat and fat free dairy products. Calcium and vitamin D are needed for strong bones and can prevent breaks and fractures.
- Aim for lean protein. Adding lean proteins to snacks can help keep you full for a longer period of time.
- Focus on low sodium foods. Less than 140 milligrams per serving is considered low.
- Limit added sugars. High fructose corn syrup and sucrose and maltose, OH MY!
Try these healthy snacks:
- Mix whole grain rice with chopped apple, nuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Make a mini pizza with whole grain English muffin halves, pizza sauce, low fat mozzarella cheese, and overloaded with fresh veggies.
- Chickpea Poppers. Here’s our adaptation of another recipe: Rinse a can of chickpeas and allow thorough drying. Spread the chickpeas evenly on a cooking sheet and drizzle over top olive oil and your choice of spice mixes. Try any of these yummy combinations: Oregano and garlic salt, lemon pepper and parmesan cheese, curry powder and cinnamon or cayenne pepper and cumin. Once chickpeas are seasoned, roast in the oven at 400 degrees until crisp.
These tips should help you start snacking a little smarter, but it can be a process. If you have questions or would like to learn more, especially if you have diabetes, consider attending this upcoming event:Diabetes Saturday Sizzler Saturday, March 2, 2013 8:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Botsford Hospital registered dietitian Annie House and dietetic intern Jessica Jodoin contributed to this post.