Happy New Year, Dear Readers!
Snacks can play an essential role in the quality of your dietary pattern. Unless you eat a small breakfast or exercise heavily, you can likely get through the morning without a snack break. However, the span between lunch and dinner is long enough that a nutritious snack may be welcome. Unless you are experiencing true hunger, I recommend avoiding after-dinner snacking. In this article, I will give you some things to consider when selecting snacks.
Before making a snack choice, take a moment to breathe, pause, and notice any thoughts or feelings that may be present, particularly any concerning the food you are about to eat. Noticing may influence your choices, especially those related to food cravings.
Consider Caloric Density
Foods lower in calorie density have fewer calories per bite. Raw vegetables and fruits (fresh, not dried) are always in this category. Oils, nuts, seeds, chocolate, pastries, cakes, and cookies provide a more significant number of calories per bite. You can combine foods to dilute the caloric density. Examples include pairing nut butter with fruit, combining veggies with hummus, or a healthy spread (see below).
Pair Vegetables with Healthy Dips or Spreads
To absorb all the beneficial nutrients in veggies, consider pairing them with a food that contains healthy fat. Here are three ideas:
- Celery with two tablespoons of old-fashioned peanut butter
- Red bell pepper and radishes with guacamole
- Assorted sliced vegetables paired with white bean dip (you might want to try my recipe)
Make Your Snack a Mini Meal
A healthy meal balances healthy carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Consider these balanced snacks totaling fewer than 250 calories.
- Stir together ½ cup nonfat yogurt, 1 Tablespoon chopped walnuts, and ½ cup sliced strawberries.
- Remove the pit from ½ medium avocado and fill the cavity with ¼ cup roasted chickpeas. Enjoy eating it with 8 cherry tomatoes.
- Mindfully munch on 8 crispy wheat crackers (I prefer Back to Nature brand) along with ¼ cup white bean dip and 3 mini cucumbers (aka Persian).
Ditch the Chips
Chips contain an alluring combination of fat, salt, crunch, and sometimes sugar—all of which create a hyper-palatable snack with low nutrient density. Here are some ideas for crunchy substitutions.
- All nuts are healthy, but it's easy to lose track of how many bites of nuts you've taken. So, it may be helpful to pre-portion nuts into single-serve containers.
- Popcorn has a low-calorie density, as long as you don't drown it in butter. You can microwave regular popcorn in a glass bowl using instructions from the Internet.
- Roasted whole beans make an excellent snack or a crunchy topping for salad. Whole-bean brands include The Good Bean (favas), Saffron Road (chickpeas), Enlightened ("broad beans," aka favas), and David Energy-Packed Mix (a blend of chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds).
Make Healthy Snacks Visible
If you're trying to dodge junk food, make it easier on yourself: Keep it out of sight or at least out of reach. And make healthy snacks convenient. Keep fruit on hand or stash pre-cut veggies up front in your refrigerator.