Smart Snacking

It happens to all of us: we get the urge to snack on something to tie us over to the next meal.  In fact, Americans snack more often then we did thirty years ago and we consume almost twice as many calories, according to a 2009 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article.  With the average snacker dedicating 470 calories per snack about every three hours, there must be a better way to cheat out of those extra calories.  Snacking on healthy snacks will not only give you the fuel you need to get to your next meal but will also feed your brain without adding on extra calories and fat.

You should know by now that empty calories such as potato chips, french fries, and that pretzel with cheese at Target you love so much, only leads to temporary satisfaction.  What you may not know is that those extra calories lead to extra weight gain, which in the end can bog you down.  To keep energy levels up, load up on complex carbohydrates instead of the simple ones, including those candy bars and soda you depend on to get you through to your next meal.  Whole grain breads or cereals combined with a protein, such as peanut butter or low-fat cheese will not only keep your waistline smaller but will keep you full longer.

Snacks may not be healthy even though they make claims up and down their package stating that they are.  “All natural,” “Low-fat,” and “Zero trans fat” should be red flags that somewhere, somehow the manufacturer is hiding other bad ingredients in the package and using tricky marketing to get you to buy the package.  (Read more on this topic in my Food is a Market Too blog).  The only labels you should be reading are the ones on back of the box.  Focus on the servings per container and the amount per serving, which lets you configure your true intake amounts.  Trans fat, calories, and the amounts of salt and sugar should be the deciding factors whether or not you should buy a package.

By preparing healthy snacks in advance, you are resisting future temptation to grab something that may instantly satisfy you but no where near sustain you.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are a no-brainer for the snacker on the go: Keeping self-servings in the fridge make for a fast get-away when knowing what you will want eat in a couple of hours down the road isn’t a top priority.  Finding recipes with healthy ingredients have never been easier to find especially with the internet at our disposal.  Bran muffins, healthy granola, and air-popped popcorn are great snacks to grab on the go.  Also by keeping healthy snacks with you at all times you are not going to fall into the temptation of going through a drive-thru or impulse buy at a convenience store.  Crackers and cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, and low-fat yogurts are all good examples of snacks you can carry with you.

A variety of choices and the will power to satisfy cravings may be the ticket to your smart snacking.  If you get bored of the same old thing, try to spice up your snacks.  A whole wheat pretzel with spicy mustard could be interesting, so could adding bananas to your peanut butter sandwich.  The key is to fulfill your satisfaction without going overboard.   If you are craving something salty for instance, try a few olives, 1/4 cup hummus with carrot sticks, 1 oz tuna jerky, or 1 cup of edamame.  Do you have a sweet tooth?  Try snacking on yogurt and honey, 1/2 oz M&M’s mixed with 1/3 cup low-fat granola, 100 calorie pack of Jelly Belly’s, or a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino bar.

Snacking after dinner may be your guilty little pleasure.  Tame the urge for salty or sweet snacks by picking the right foods.  Fat-free pudding cups, 2 tablespoons of peanuts, a cup of fruit, or healthy pops made from frozen unsweetened 100% juice can all be solutions to your no-guilt temptations.
Moderation as with anything is the key to smart snacking.  Knowing your weaknesses and curbing your cravings with healthier selections will help you to start snacking smarter.  Being prepared and investing time to your smart snacking cause will let you forget your guilt and tackle temptation the next time hunger hits.

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