Did you know that 90% of Americans snack at least 1 time a day with the average being up to 3 times a day? Snacking makes up an average of nearly a quarter of our daily calories (22% to be exact).
Since snacks make up so much of our food intake, if we really want to be healthier it’s worth it to make sure we are making better snack choices!
What kind of snacks to have
As always, my recipe for healthy eating is mostly whole foods with a dash of processed foods (choose the better-for-you options here) and a sprinkle of true indulgence.
When it comes to snacks, it’s no different.
Whole foods are the name of the game when feasible.
Examples of whole food snacks are:
- A piece of fruit
- Hard boiled eggs
Minimally Processed Foods
If whole foods aren’t an option, go for the minimally processed options including:
- Plain Greek Yogurt
- Frozen fruits
- Canned fruits with no added sugar
- Frozen products like edamame
Healthy prepackaged brands
And another options is to choose better-for-you brand prepackaged foods.
- Crackers or chips made with seeds or grains
- Bars made with oatmeal as a first ingredient and less than 5g sugar
- Popcorn with no added butter
I shared my 7 favorite healthy snacks in a post recently. If you want to read it, [CLICK HERE] or see the graphic below.
And occasionally, choose foods solely because you love the taste and want to indulge!
Is snacking healthy?
The long and short of it is that it really depends. If you are choosing nutrient dense snacks and controlling portions, then yes.
When done right, snacking can help with the following.
- Glucose regulation (blood sugar control)
- Weight management
- Meeting your nutrient needs for the day
How often to snack
In general, you should be able to go 3-4 hours without eating.
If you are getting hungry more frequently than that, chances are you aren’t eating enough at your meals. If that’s the case, consider upping your portion sizes or balance of nutrients at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
For example, if you tend to get really hungry between breakfast and lunch, consider having a slightly bigger breakfast. If your hungry strikes shortly after lunch and way before dinner, you might need to add some more to your lunch plate or have a larger snack between lunch and dinner to make up the difference.
Tips for healthy snacking habits
Here are my top tips for healthier snacking:
- Portion control- instead of grabbing a bag out of the pantry and eating right out of it, pour out the portion you will have. By portioning out your snack, you are much less likely to just eat mindlessly out of the bag. Same goes for if you are bringing a snack on the go. The snack packs work great for this!
And if you forget to bring a healthy snack but you get hungry while you are out and about, grab something at a gas station, vending machine, or even stop by a convenience store. You can find healthy snack options like popcorn, nuts, and nutrition snack bars everywhere these days. I see them in the line everywhere. From Home Goods to Old Navy.
- Be aware of why you are snacking. Stop and ask yourself if you’re truly hungry or if you’re just reaching for a snack because you are bored, stressed, or out of habit. Aim to snack only when you are truly hungry. If you are, eat a snack! Don’t try to wait until your next meal to eat if your hunger is already kicking in. A snack will help tide you over until and keep you from getting to a 10 on the hunger scale and overeating at your meal. If you aren’t truly hungry, hold off on the healthy snack until your body is actually asking for it.
- Keep healthy snacks in your line of sight and stick the less healthy stuff where you won’t see it. You are much more likely to grab an unhealthy snack if you’re hungry and it’s the first thing you see when you open the pantry. Or honestly, even if you aren’t hungry and it’s the first thing you see when you open the pantry. Even better than keeping the less healthy stuff in the back of the pantry? Just don’t buy it. That way it’s not even there to tempt you.
- I mentioned this in the intro but it’s worth saying again: Whenever possible, aim to eat whole foods as your snack. Whole foods like fresh fruits & veggies, nuts/seeds, hard boiled eggs, or minimally processed foods like frozen fruits and veggies, greek yogurt and frozen edamame are nutrient dense options. If whole foods or minimally processed foods aren’t possible because you aren’t in a place where you have a refrigerator, choose a better-for-you packaged snack options. Some examples include whole grain or seed crackers, popcorns, dried chickpeas, or plantain chips.
You can find some of my favorite grab-and-go snack options if you [CLICK HERE] and some tips for choosing healthier snacks in the image below.
- Pair complex carbs with either a protein or healthy fat (or both!). By balancing snacks like this you will be more likely to feel satisfied and less likely to overindulge.
- Pair an apple (carbs including fiber) with peanut butter (healthy fats and plant based protein)
- Pair crackers (carb) with hummus (healthy fats and plant based protein)
- Pair some berries (carbs including fiber) with a handful of almonds (healthy fats and plant based protein)
- Pair low fat greek yogurt (protein) with berries and a granola that has nuts and seeds (carbs & fiber + healthy fats)
- Don’t rule out “mealtime” foods as “snacktime” foods. Nutritious foods can be eaten at any time of the day. A snack is generally thought of as an easy on-the-go option, but with work from home, many people have access to their kitchen and can prepare a healthy, more nourishing snack. Take advantage of this by opting for something like a scrambled egg with spinach and small bowl of berries. To give you some perspective, 1 egg + handful of spinach + ½ cup of blueberries has ~100 calories. The same as many snack packs.
Which do you think is more likely to satisfy you, fill you up, and provide more nutrients? The egg scramble with fruit or the snack pack of graham crackers? Probably the first option! Plus, it is nutrient rich giving you protein, fats, and carbs plus nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K in the egg yolk, fiber and potassium from the spinach, and antioxidants from the blueberries.
If you don’t like eggs, choose something else. My point is just that “mealtime” foods can also be “snacktime” foods.
We love to snack! So much so that research shows that snacking makes up around 22% of the average American’s calorie intake. It’s worth it to be sure you are making healthy, nutritious snack choices in addition to eating balanced meals!
In this post, I shared some helpful tips to snack healthier. I hope at least one of these resonated with you. If you are looking for some healthy snack options, you can find some of my favorites in my posts below: