Snacks sound so cute and small, but they can also lead to mindless munching or sometimes just make us hungrier! In this post, I’m sharing my tips to help you snack smarter.
Snacking is one of those things that seems so simple. If you’re hungry, eat! Some people snack all day long; others (like my dad) never snack.
I rarely find myself hungry between breakfast and lunch (assuming I have a sizable breakfast), but I almost always need something to get me to dinner. Most often I blame the longer gap between afternoon meals.
How To Snack Smarter
1) Balance out your day.
Often I ask myself: “What I have already eaten today, and what could I use more of?” If I had yogurt for breakfast, I try to think of another snack – fresh fruit and nuts, perhaps. And if I had bread at lunch, I don’t choose toast for a snack. If I haven’t had any veggies yet (gasp!), I might make a green smoothie. Or if my day is lacking in dairy I’ll create a yogurt + granola bowl.
2) Eat real food.
Duh, right? But snacks made of real food and healthier ingredients are going to most likely leave you feeling more satisfied than the more processed alternatives, especially if you keep calories equal. Think of the volumetrics concept of eating – fresh foods take up more space in your stomach. A bowl of blueberries mixed with maple almonds is likely to fill you up more than a can of soda and some crackers. Think fresh fruit, plain dairy, trail mixes, veggies and dip, whole grains, bars with ingredients you can pronounce, etc.
3) Pair carbohydrates, protein and fats together.
The more of these three macronutrients you include, the more satisfied you are likely to feel. Carbohydrates give you energy, and protein and fat increase satiety. A snack that blends the three will easily get you to dinner. Think small smoothies with banana, milk, and peanut butter, or a trail mix made with dried fruit and nuts.
4) Start small.
It is easy, however, to get carried away and keep adding ingredients to snacks. Listen to your hunger and ask yourself how much you really need. Unless you’re a mini-meal eater, the point of a snack is just to tide you over, so start small and add only if you feel you need more. I have spoiled my appetite for dinner way too many times because I got too excited about my snack creation. Thus I am working on snacking conservatively.
5) Keep good stock and plan ahead.
Building on the “start small” thought, you’ll do better keeping snacks in check if you have options available and predict your hunger and snack behavior as best you can. Knowing I am always hungry around 4 p.m., I try not to wait until 4:30 or 5 when I know I’ll be too hungry and over-snack. That almost always kills dinner.