Give More Thought to Snacks

Give More Thought to Snacks

by Patty James

According to a recent survey of American’s dietary habits 75% of us eat breakfast, 88% eat lunch, and 90% of us snack daily, yet we don’t plan snacks like we do other meals.

Eating candy, chips, donuts, cookies, and other unhealthy snacks will satisfy your cravings temporarily, but they cause your blood sugar to rise and just as quickly drop, making you feel lethargic, moody, and still hungry because you haven’t given your body the fuel it needs. For those with children, studies have shown that up to 45% of the average American child’s caloric intake comes from snacks. Therefore, planning ahead for snacks is as important as the meals you plan for you and your family.

If you think about your daily snacks as another meal, then that meal should supplement breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Let’s say you serve oatmeal for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, and salmon with brown rice and steamed broccoli for dinner. Complementary snacks might be fruit or some raw veggies, since those don’t make an appearance in the three main meals.

If you have children, does your child attend day care or an after school program? Do you know what snacks are being served? Find out! If you feel that the snacks your child receives there aren’t healthy, put together your own snack bags for your child to bring with them.

Here are some snacking tips:

  • Snack first before chores, homework, or other activities. When you eat while doing other things, such as watching TV, you tend to overeat because you aren’t paying attention to your intake. An after-school snack-time is a great way to take a break and re-connect with kids who’ve been away at school all day.
  • If you have it on hand, you will eat it! That is, if you’re trying to avoid processed snack foods, don’t buy them. Stock up on snacks that make you feel good like fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Snacks are fuel for the body, just like meals. Aim for a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates in your snacks just like you would with a regular meal. Hummus and sliced vegetables, for instance, contain all 3 macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and good fats.
  • Take note of what time of day you tend to snack. For many adults (and kids), it’s late afternoon. Anticipate your hunger and arm yourself with healthy snacks instead of scrambling and settling for something sugary.
  • Be aware of what you drink. A sugary drink or a high-sugar and fat coffee drink is not a healthy snack. It won’t fill you up – the most it will do is cause a blood sugar spike.
  • Pay attention to portions. According to Dr. Brian Wansink, director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, people make over 200 food decisions a day. Some decisions are subtle, like choosing plate size, which influences how much we eat at that meal. It is just as important to be mindful of snack portions. However, if you’re eating fresh fruits and vegetables, you don’t really even need to measure! (French fries EXCLUDED.)

Examples of Healthy Snacks:

  • Half an apple with 2 teaspoons of peanut or almond butter
  • An orange and a few raw almonds or walnuts
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce with 1 slice of whole-grain toast, cut into 4 strips for dunking
  • Popcorn, seasoned with herbs, garlic, nutritional yeast and a bit of olive oil.
  • Plain yogurt with berries
  • A small tossed salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, or whatever is in season, tossed with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and flax or olive oil.
  • Hummus or bean dip and veggies, or baked whole-wheat pita bread or whole grain crackers.
  • Sushi made with brown rice and sliced vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, green onion, red pepper, avocado, etc)

Happy snacking!