By Rachel Stuck, RDN
Snacking is a natural desire between meals. It is also an action that can lead to mindless indulgence or an unneeded dose of caffeine. By mid morning and late afternoon, you might be tempted to fall off track, but with a little preparation, snack time is easy to navigate.
There are three components to a good snack choice. They are protein, nutrients, and fiber. Protein and fiber keep you feeling full and help maintain a steady blood sugar to avoid feeling foggy or fall victim to the dreaded “sugar crash” sensation. Nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, are a bonus to fiber-rich foods including fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains. Vitamins and minerals are important for disease prevention and metabolism, and they play a role in every single physiological function, making snack time the perfect time to add in an additional serving of vegetables or fruit.
Before revealing a list of snacks to consider, it is important to address if snacks are even necessary. While snacks can be a perfect place to fill in any missing components of your dietary needs, snacks can also add calories, sugar, fat, and refined carbohydrates in the diet. Ultimately, snacks should be well planned and have a purpose. Avoid having less optimal food choices on hand and keep three or four of your favorite healthful snacks stocked to ensure success when reaching for your mid-day fix.
A good place to start when planning your snacks is to first review what your typical day of eating might look like. Review your protein intake, daily servings of healthy fats and vegetable intake, and plan your snacks around the deficiencies of your daily intake. For example, if you notice that your breakfast falls short in the protein category consider adding a mid-morning snack that fills your protein needs.
Fruits and vegetables are perfect snacks. A simple serving of carrots or a tangy cucumber salad will fill you up and add important nutrients to your diet
Eggs are not only a great way to start the day, but also a satisfying addition to your snacking routine. Hard-boiled eggs are easy to transport, offer a protein boost, and are a good source of a variety of nutrients.
Yogurt adds probiotics to support gut health and can be a great source of protein.Coming in at 10-18g of protein per serving, Greek style yogurt is an easy go-to when looking for a snack. Review the nutrition label to ensure your yogurt has at least 15 grams of protein and less than 10 grams of added sugar per serving.
Nuts and seeds are a good source of heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. Because nuts and seeds are high in fat, and therefore calories, it is important to be mindful of the serving size. Start with a small handful of nuts or seeds and then consider having a side of vegetables, like sugar snap peas, if you are still hungry.
Fiber plays a big role in maintaining healthy digestion and can support the reduction of total blood cholesterol. Look for crackers that contain at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. While crackers can be a good addition to your snack routine, each variety has a different nutrition profile. Review the nutrition label for serving size and amount of carbohydrates per serving to guide you how much to include.
While tea might not exactly satisfy your hunger, it’s a good way to curb cravings. Enjoying a hot cup of tea can create the needed pause to assess what kind of snack you would like to have. Consider adding green or herbal tea to your afternoon in place of a second cup of coffee or to your evening routine to help you wind down before bed.