Snacking does not have to be a detriment to our diets. When properly balanced with our meals, snacks can keep our energy tanks fueled and our appetites controlled. However, snacking can become harmful if we fall victim to mindless eating. Here are five tips to follow that will help you snack healthy and avoid mindless eating on the couch, at your desk, in front of the vending machine or the table of homemade sweets.
1. Plan healthy snack options
Planning is essential to stay on top of a lot of routine things we do. Healthy eating is one of the biggest areas that planning can help us. Most of us get hungry at some point during the day, so why not plan for it? If you decide ahead of time what you’re going to eat every day during the week, you’ll be far less likely to munch mindlessly on a big bag of chips at your desk or on the couch. It does involve a bit more work, but your body—and your wallet—will thank you.
Here’s how you plan your snacks:
- Add to your grocery list all the snacks you’ll enjoy that are 200 calories or less. Your calorie needs vary depending on your age, gender, height, and activity level, but a general rule of thumb is to keep them between 50 and 200 calories.
- Shop for items you’ll be excited to eat, such as seasonal fruits, a new flavor of yogurt, etc. Pre-packaged 100-calorie snacks are not the only available options at the store. Get creative with your snacks.
- We usually get ourselves in trouble with the vending machine or bottomless bag when we wait until we’re hungry to decide what to eat. Try to pack a week’s worth of nutritious snacks at once to avoid stress. You’ll be surprised how quickly it becomes second nature.
- Use the weekends to prepare your snacks for each day of the week. For example, buy a whole pineapple, cut it up into pieces and place them in containers. Not only will this help you plan your week, but you’ll also save in the long run because a whole pineapple costs less than pre-cut fruit. Same goes for buying bags of baby carrots, etc.
2. Watch your portion size
The last you want to do is sit down with a whole bag or box. Portion control is extremely important if your goal is to lose weight and eat healthier. Measuring your food is the most accurate way to ensure you’re eating the recommended portion sizes. However, that can be time consuming and it’s understandable if you don’t have time to get out the scale at every meal. Here are some easier yet still effective ways to measure your food wherever you are.
- Snack bags give you instant portion control. If you want to snack on crackers, avoid eating out of the box by placing a handful of the crackers in a baggie and put the box back in the pantry.
- A small handful is about one-fourth cup. This is a great way to portion nuts or trail mix, both of which can be addictive.
- An Altoids container is a good way to portion out raw almonds.
- 1 ounce (two handfuls) is a good portion size for chips and crackers
- Other recommended portion sizes include: 8 ounces of yogurt, one low-fat cheese stick, and two cups of fruit per day (one cup is equal to your fist).
- No limit on non-starchy veggies, so go to town on carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc.
3. Watch the beverages
Keep this mind: We often eat snacks because we think we’re hungry, but we’re really just thirsty. Try to stay in tune with your hunger and thirst.
- A lot of Americans go to coffee shops for afternoon snacks. Coffee isn’t a bad choice, especially in the afternoon when you need a quick pick-me-up, but be careful of what you’re putting in your cup. It can quickly add up to 500 – 700 calories for one snack. Limit the sugars and use low-fat milk.
- Hot and cold teas are good choices because they’re often packed with antioxidants and health benefits.
- If you crave a carbonated beverage but don’t want the added sweeteners, try Lemon sparkling water. You can also make spa water by adding fruits to your water in a pitcher or big water bottle. Add some Stevia to make it sweet, if desired.
4. Leave some wiggle room
What you do 90 percent of the time will make the biggest impact on your health. If you’re eating healthy and being active 90 percent of the time, then you have a little wiggle room to indulge. But make sure it’s something you absolutely love. On a scale from one to ten, if the item is as high as a nine or ten, then go ahead and enjoy it from time to time. But consider going without items scored eight or below.
5. Snack on leftovers
Just like when you’re planning anything else at work or home, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of food you didn’t eat the night before. The great thing about leftovers is they’re often more nutritious than snack foods and are already made. Who says you can’t have lentil soup or roasted sweet potatoes for your snack?Share this Article