Snacks to keep you on track
By Shelby Moose, Crossing Rivers Health Registered Dietitian
It’s mid-afternoon, you're at work when you start to feel tired and your stomach starts to rumble. You're experiencing a snack attack.
What do you reach for to satisfy it? Do you try to ignore it since you're trying to lose weight in the New Year? Do you go to the nearest candy jar and raid it, or do you reach for the healthy snack you packed?
It seems as though snacking may have replaced baseball as America's favorite pastime. National dietary surveys have found that over 90% of adults and children snack every day, sometimes several times per day.
Whether or not that's good, largely depends on the quality of the snacks being consumed. Many of the most common snacks, such as chips, cookies, and soda, are not the best options for our health. When the right choice is made, snacking can help curb appetite, boost energy, and provide much-needed nutrients to our diets- think fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
Some question whether eating between meals is even good for us. The answer: if you're feeling hungry, then yes, it's good to eat!
Fuel your body
We need to provide our bodies with fuel, even if it's outside of mealtime! Our bodies are machines that need fuel just like cars do, but think about this - would you put diesel in a high-end, shiny sports car? No way! So, we need to care for our bodies and fuel them right.
Before I offer some snack ideas, here are some helpful guidelines.
- Plan ahead! Keep a variety of healthy ready-to-eat snacks on hand. Set yourself up for success! Don’t wait for a snack attack to strike, Snickers says 'you're not you when you're hungry'. I couldn't have said it better!
- Eat slowly - preferably not at your desk! It's not a race to eat your food. Savor and really taste it.
- Drink water often. Limit servings of soda and fruit drinks. They are high in chemicals and low in nutrients.
- Learn to recognize true hunger and fullness. Skip the urge to nibble when you are bored, tired, upset, or stressed. Try something else like walking the dog, going for a jog, reading a book, writing in a journal, or listening to your favorite music. Before you reach for a snack first ask yourself if you are truly hungry or are your emotions controlling you.
- Avoid snacking while watching TV, working, or playing on the computer, reading, or driving. This is called “mindless eating.” It can often cause people to eat more than they would if they were paying attention.
- Never snack directly from a large container, bag, or box. This is a slippery slope to overeating. Anyone can relate to, “Well there's only this much left in the bag, might as well polish it off.”
- Snack only when you are hungry and stop when you're full.
- Do not fall into the trap of 'diet' foods such as anything with 'low-fat,' 'sugar-free,' 'lite,' '100 calories' in the name. We tend to think we are making a healthy choice and actually end up overeating since we are being 'good.' These products usually have very little to offer us, think about that shiny, high-end sports car again. All you have to do is look over the ingredient list to determine if that fuel is good to put into your body.
Refuel with these easy, healthy snacks
Layer vanilla yogurt and fruit in a bowl or glass. Top with a sprinkle of granola or cereal. Or fill a waffle cone with cut-up fruit and top with vanilla yogurt.
Spread mustard or hummus on a whole wheat tortilla. Top with a slice of turkey or ham, cheese, lettuce, and any other veggies you want. For an interesting flavor, try sliced apples, ham, and cheese. For a classic flavor try PB&J. Then roll up!
Top a banana with vanilla yogurt and sprinkle with granola or cereal.
Banana frozen treats
peel and cut up a banana. Spread peanut butter on one side and combine it with another banana slice to make a bite-size sandwich. Freeze.
Ants on a log
Peanut butter spread on celery and topped with raisins.
Don’t be scared to add veggies here!
Apple slices dipped in peanut butter or yogurt
For a yummy yogurt dip add vanilla extract, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, a pinch of salt to plain yogurt.
½ inch apple slices. Spread with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and granola to make a sandwich.
Whole wheat pita cut into wedges with hummus for a dip
Classic cheese and crackers
Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on hot popcorn, herbs such as dill are delicious also.
Cereal - hot or cold
Oatmeal or a bowl of cereal topped with fruit.
Make pita pockets
Stuff a small whole-wheat pita with sliced bell peppers, salsa, and a slice of cheese. Melt in the microwave for 15-20 seconds.
Jazz up your favorite cereal by mixing it and making a trail mix with nuts, dried fruit.
Freeze your fruit
Try freezing grapes or bananas. Don’t forget to peel the banana first before freezing.
Sprinkle grated Monterey Jack cheese over a corn tortilla; fold in half and microwave for twenty seconds. Top with salsa.
English muffin topped with chopped vegetables, spaghetti, or marinara sauce and sprinkled with cheese then melted in the microwave.
There are lots of recipes online to make these either sweet or savory, just to your liking.
Veggies and dip
Dip baby carrots and cherry tomatoes (or any vegetable you wish) in salad dressing, hummus, or guacamole.
A warm, steamy cup of hot chocolate
Pudding with fruit and a serving of vanilla wafers
Break a graham cracker into bite-size pieces. Add to chocolate pudding along with a few miniature marshmallows.
Cut-up an apple, place on tin foil, sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar then bake at 400o for 25 minutes. Try to let it cool before enjoying!
Dip graham crackers in applesauce, yogurt, or pudding
Quick and easy snacks
Read that ingredient list! We want the best fuel for our bodies. You want a granola bar that has 3g or more of fiber and 15g or less of sugar.
Fresh fruit like bananas and oranges are easy to pack, they keep well and you're able to eat them anytime!
Turkey, beef, chicken, and venison jerky can be an excellent snack that’s low in calories and high in protein. Make sure to look out for added sugar sources; aim for jerkies that are less than 3 grams of sugar per serving.
Individual containers of applesauce are easy to pack and provide a tasty alternative to traditional apple slices. You can also get them in squeeze tubes for easy eating on the go. Add cinnamon, simply delicious.
If you just have to have that cookie, piece of cake, donut, chocolate, ice cream, or chips- then go for it.
Choose small portion sizes of these foods and try to combine them with a healthier option. For example:
- If you just got to have the fresh-baked cookie from the cafeteria because it smells so good, go ahead and have it with a piece of fruit rather than eating two or three cookies.
- Portion out a serving of chips and have it with some raw vegetables.
- Portion out a serving of chips and mix it with plain popped popcorn. You still satisfy that salty/crunchy craving, stay on the snack track, and fulfill your hunger since popcorn has lots of fiber to fill you up.
- Put a small scoop (smaller than a baseball) of ice cream in a bowl and top it with fruits.
As a Registered Dietitian, I encourage individuals to take control and to care for their health. By making informed food choices, preparing healthy and delicious meals and snacks, people can feel better and it will motivate them in other areas of their life.
If you are interested in making an appointment with Shelby, ask your primary care provider for a referral.