When I realized March was National Nutrition Month, all sorts of nutrition-related topics started floating through my mind. As a lover of all things food and a chronic snacker, I knew I wanted to share my personal tips on how to choose a healthy snack.
Everyone’s eating philosophies are different and that’s definitely okay. Some people eat many small meals throughout the day. Others strictly stick to breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are many different theories about this, but if you read here then you know my opinion about nutrition is that you should do what works for you.
For me personally, I usually eat a smaller grab-and-go breakfast, a well-balanced lunch, a mid-afternoon snack and then a later dinner (which is almost always my biggest meal of the day). My workday is fairly long- about 12 hours including my commute- so having a nutritious, substantial afternoon snack helps me stay on track with healthy eating and curbs my hunger until dinnertime.
When choosing a snack, these are some things I like to consider:
· I try my best to plan my snacks in advance and pack them when I’m packing my breakfast and lunch. Planning in advance = the best nutrition decisions. Life happens and it doesn’t always work out this way, but I try my best.
· Speaking of which ^^^, always keep a back-up snack on hand <– more on that later
· I’m not a calorie counter but I would guestimate that my snacks are usually between 150-300kcals. If I’m having a lighter lunch then I might pack a heavier snack. It just depends on the day. I really just try to listen to my body and eat until I feel satisfied.
· Snacks are the perfect opportunity to fit in a fruit or vegetable serving.
· Don’t be afraid to get creative… I tend to eat the same things over and over again with meals but snacks are an easy place to switch things up.
· It’s best to pre-portion out snacks, especially when I’m snacking at home. Having 1 serving of wheat crackers is good. Eating half of the box of wheat crackers is, ahem, probably not so good.
· Protein, fiber and healthy fats are three things that help us feel full. Therefore, I like for my snacks to include at least 1 of them. It’s ideal if I can build a snack that contains 2 of them, and it’s an added bonus if I can eat a snack that contains all 3. I like to shoot for at least 5g of fiber or 10g of protein but will settle for a little less than that if the item contains both protein and fiber. So for example, if I am choosing something that has 12g of protein then I don’t mind if it only has 3g of fiber (but, when possible, I like for it to have some fiber).
I made the chart below to show you how simple it is to mix and match items that contain fiber, protein and healthy fats to create a healthy and filling snack.
Here are some of my favorite combos:
Baked apples with cottage cheese
Tuna salad on a piece of toast
Pear with almonds
Greek yogurt bowl (topped with fruit and chia seeds)
Banana with peanut butter
The chart just gives you some examples. There are lots of other options out there! I hope this gives you a visual of how it’s not hard to come up with a simple and nutritious snack.
Oh, an notice what’s not on the chart? Chips. Cookies. Cake. Candy. All things that I love but also things that won’t hold me over until dinnertime.
And now, let’s talk about the back-up snack…
I’m a firm believer in being prepared for anything, especially mornings when I sleep through my alarm clock, so it’s beneficial to keep back-up snacks on hand. I usually keep a few granola bars in my desk or some greek yogurt cups in the fridge at work if I ever find myself in a crunch and searching for things to eat. My thought on this is that a processed food item is way better than what I would probably buy out of a vending machine (most likely the 2-pack of fig newtons, which have 2g protein and 2g fiber… not what my body needs to help me feel full!).
That’s it for today! If you’re interested in my other nutrition-related posts, just click here or on the tab at the top of the page.
Happy National Nutrition Month!