Being a dietitian, I (Lauren) pick up on food trends and behaviors very often. One thing I have learned is that snacking has gotten a bad reputation! Sure, coming home from a day at work and polishing off a bag of potato chips while catching up on Dr. Phil for an hour is not the way to go to achieve your health and fitness goals. However, more people are discovering that healthy (key word = healthy) snacks can actually help people reach their weight and fitness goals quicker and for a longer time.
- Snacking helps manage hunger, which in turn will reduce binging and/or indulging in high calorie “junk” food. Choosing what food to eat while you are ravenous compared with when you are a little hungry are two different animals. When you are not starving, you can make smarter choices with a clear mind, rather than grabbing the first food that you see.
- Snacking helps people achieve the national standard of consuming at least 5 fruits and vegetables/day. Fruit is a very convenient, portable, and mostly non-perishable option that is ideal for snacking. I notice that often, skipping snacks means skipping fruit servings.
- Most people’s blood sugar dips three to five hours after you eat. Eating small, frequent snacks helps normalize blood sugar. Normalized blood sugars make you feel more satiated and therefore would likely eat smaller portions at the next meal as a result. Smaller portions=fewer calories=weight loss!
- Hunger can throw your body into famine mode, which slows metabolism and makes it more difficult to loose weight, since your body will more likely hold onto your fat stores.
The key to successful snacking is to choose the right snacks, and to avoid the mindless eating that turns into overeating. A good rule of thumb is to try to keep your snacks around 100 calories each. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, it is best to choose snacks that are rich in:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese or fortified soy beverages
Also, choose snacks that are low in:
- Added sugars
- Solid fats, including trans fats
- Refined grains
- One light yogurt cup
- 3 cups air popped popcorn
- One packet instant oatmeal
- 1 cup baby carrots with 2 Tbsp hummus
- 2 scrambled egg whites with 1 slice light wheat bread (toasted)
- 1 ounce box of raisins
- 1 medium pear
- 1 cup skim milk
- ½ banana and 2 tsp peanut butter
Lauren Hirschfeld has her masters degree in nutrition, is a registered dietitian and LD. She works at Roper Saint Francis as a clinical dietitian. Lauren is also a certified personal trainer. If you have any questions about snacking, please feel free to post comments.