Along with a regular schedule of balanced meals, healthy snacking is a way to help you get all the nutrients you need and keep you fuelled throughout your day. But does everybody equally need to snack? The answer is no. Below, are a few points you may want to consider.
- If you tend to get hungry between your meals, go for a snack: Healthy snacking helps keep you from getting overly hungry and then overeating at your next meal.
- If you find it difficult to eat your recommended food portions per day, go for a snack: Healthy snacking can help you eat more healthy foods in your day. Through snacks, it would be easier to work in your daily servings of healthy foods especially for vegetables and fruits.
- If you tend to have energy level drops between meals, go for a snack: Snacks provide your body with constant energy throughout your day. Eating regular meals and snacks helps keep your blood sugars more stable throughout the day and help avoid energy level drops between meals.
…Or not to snack?
- If you’re eating for reasons other than physical hunger, don’t snack: It is important to know your hunger cues and your body’s needs. Here is a great article that can help you distinguish between physical hunger or emotional hunger: How to Identify if You May Be Emotionally Eating. The importance of understanding your hunger is that it allows you to skip the urge to nibble when you are bored, tired, upset or stressed, and just as some people require snacking, too much snacking when your body does not need it could also lead to unwanted weight gain.
Making healthy choices
Now that you have a bit of a background on how to determine if you need snacks, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Key to healthy snacking is to wisely choose your foods while keeping in mind healthy portion sizes and only snacking when you are physically hungry. You’ll want to put together a snack that will provide a mix of low fat protein and healthy carbohydrate. The carbohydrate will get digested first and satisfy your hunger right away, and the protein will give your snack a bit more staying power.
- Keep a variety of healthy snacks on hand to help avoid reaching out for foods that are higher in fat, sugar or salt.
- Strive for progress, not perfection while working towards your goal of healthy snacking. Don’t restrict yourself from your favourite foods. If you really feel like having that chocolate chip cookie, reduce the amount you usually eat by half and include a healthy combination such as a sweet crunchy fruit. This way you avoid feeling guilty while still satisfying your craving.
- Try to include foods from 2 of the 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide for each snack.
- Limit snacks to 2-3 per day depending on how hungry you are.
- Enjoy the moment: Eat slowly and avoid eating while distracted as this may lead to over eating. Driving, watching your favourite TV show or simply working/playing infront of a screen are all sources of distraction which can cause people to eat more than they would if they were paying attention.
Healthy snacks portion ideas:
- 1 cup fresh, cut up vegetables with 1 Tablespoon of hummus
- 1 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit (in water instead of a syrup)
- 1 slice of whole wheat bread with 1 Tablespoon peanut butter or hummus
- 1 cup fruit smoothie made with low-fat milk or yogurt and your favourite fruit
- 2-3 melba toasts with 1 oz low-fat cheese
- 2 Tablespoons of unsalted nuts such as almonds, peanuts, cashews or walnuts and 1 fresh fruit
- 175 mL low fat yogurt and 1 medium fruit
- From time to time: 1 to 2 cups air-popped or low fat microwave popcorn. (Popcorn. Yes… Popcorn!)
The take home message is that snacking is optional. If you tend to get very hungry between meals, eating more frequently may be a good solution for you. But if you don’t get hungry between meals and are able to work in your recommended food portions per day, you may keep snacks for times of need.
Go ahead, try your own snacks and impress yourself, your family and your guests with beautiful and easy bouchées! Here is a melba toast snack idea: Melba Toasts Recipe