Snacking has become very popular in today’s society–so popular that people snack all day long to “increase their metabolism” to lose weight. Now, the whole topic on food increasing your metabolism is a whole different topic for another day, but in short, food cannot boost your metabolism. The only thing that can speed up your metabolism is exercising. Again, we will save those details for another post.
So, what are the pros and cons of snacking? In short, the idea behind no snacking is that it gives your digestive system a break between each meal so that when food enters again, it will be ready to easily digest.
However, sometimes you really need to listen to your body’s hunger pains. If an average person is on a 2,000 calorie diet that would mean he or she would need to consume around 670 calories per meal. With careful consideration, it could easily be done. Or even if one were to eat out for every meal, those allotted calories would easily be met or probably over-met. For the health conscious individual, 670 calories may be hard to reach at each meal. Some people are not breakfast eaters and may only consume 300 calories in the morning, so they would need a mid-morning snack in order to make it to lunch time. Others have very high metabolisms or are very active and need a little boost between meals. In these cases, snacking is good! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that for a sedentary person, snacks should be about 200 calories. For the more active individuals and children, snacks should be between 200 and 300 calories.
It is important that we be mindful with the snacks we choose. A problem with snacking is that a lot of pre-packaged, processed snacks contain empty calories. Empty calories are basically calories with little to no nutrient value. While eating is a pleasurable activity, its soul purpose is to nourish our bodies. Our goal is to combine healthful eating with pleasure.
Now that we have established that snacking is OK if your body tells you it is hungry, what are some ways to have nourishing, smart snacks? From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they suggest having pre-planned snacks. What all does this entail? When you get home from the grocery store, try washing, chopping, and packaging all of your produce that way it is easily accessible when you and your family need a snack on-the-go. If you love popcorn, air-pop some in advance and portion it out into sealable bags. Those are just a couple of ideas to make snacks easily accessible.
What are some other smart snacking ideas that are around 200 calories, tasty, and healthful? Below is a list of “Smart Snacking” options. One thing I try to do with my snacks is to make it a combination of carbohydrate and protein. By doing this, your blood sugar will not spike up high and immediately fall back down. The protein helps gradually decrease blood sugar after it has risen.
Nuts are also a great option for snacks. They are full of healthy fats, great for our brain and cells, especially walnuts! Keep in mind that while nuts are very nutritious and a great source of omega 3, they do contain a lot of calories for a small amount. A rule of thumb is about a handful, or 1/4 cup, is a serving.
If you try any of the snack items listed, please comment below to tell me how you liked them! Also, if you have any favorite, nutritious snacks, please share!
- Ants on a Log (2 celery stalks, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened raisins)
- 1/4 cup of your favorite Trail Mix & 1 Clementine
- 1 Banana with 1-2 Tablespoons Nut Butter of choice
- 1/2 cup of baby carrots & 2 tablespoons of hummus (if you do not like hummus, you could try greek yogurt dips or low-fat salad dressing)
- 1 slice of low-fat cheese & 6 crackers of choice
- 1 single-serve container (about 1/2 cup) of Greek Yogurt (your flavor preference) & 1/2 cup of fresh/frozen berries
- 1 granola bar & navel orange
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter & drizzle of honey
- 1/4 cup cashews & 5-10 fresh strawberries
- Fresh fruit/veggie smoothie blended with skim or nut milk (added nut butter for extra protein)
- Apple Nachos: 1 thinly sliced apple drizzled with 1 tablespoon of nut butter (may help if heated) & 1 tablespoon shredded, unsweetened coconut (want to splurge? Add 2 teaspoons of mini dark chocolate chips)
- 1 hard boiled egg over 1 slice of 100% whole grain toast (you could also add veggies like sliced bell peppers, spinach, or cucumber for color, texture, fiber, and extra nutrients)
Those are just a few of the endless smart snacking options! Remember to plan for your snacks that way you do not reach for something that has empty calories leaving you hungrier than you were before. Until next time, keep snacking smart!