It hits you when you least expect it… the all-too familiar rumbling in your stomach that arrives during your weekly staff meeting, or while running errands in the middle of a busy afternoon. It’s hours from dinner, your blood sugar is plummeting, and the rumbling is growing louder and louder! What can you do to save yourself?
Benefits of Snacking
Go ahead – give in to the desire to snack, as long as you snack in a healthy way. In fact, snacking can actually be good for you! There are many benefits to healthy snacking. Snacking between meals will help maintain blood sugar levels, and keep your body fueled properly, so that you can get through your day with the energy your body needs. And when your body is fueled, so is your brain, meaning that you will also remain more alert. Snacking can also help with weight management by helping control hunger throughout the day.
Proper Timing is Everything
In order to maintain blood sugar levels throughout the day and to avoid long periods of calorie absences, consider adding a small snack to your mid-morning and mid-afternoon routine. Eating every 3-4 hours is generally a good rule of thumb to follow. However, remember that everyone is different and has different nutrition needs. Find what works best for you, while still maintaining your calorie goals.
Go Ahead and Indulge!
In order to help you avoid those horrible mid-morning or mid-afternoon stomach rumblings, here are some “smart snack” ideas, which all weigh in at 200 calories or less:
• 4 mini pizza bagels -- halve two bagels and top with low-fat cheese and tomato sauce.
• ¼ cup dried fruit -- think raisins, cranberries, apricots, or mangoes!
• 1 tbsp of peanut butter spread on 2 graham crackers.
• Light (reduced-fat, fat-free or no sugar added) yogurt or yogurt smoothie.
• A piece of fresh fruit -- try a new exotic variety for a twist.
• Serving (about a handful) of whole grain crackers – check the nutrition facts panel for exact serving size.
• Baked tortilla chips with salsa – be sure to check labels for appropriate serving.
• 1 medium banana or apple spread with 1 tbsp of peanut butter.
• ¼ cup of trail mix.
• 1 medium sweet potato served with low-calorie butter spray and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
• 3 ounces of drained, canned tuna (served in water) mixed with 1 tbsp of light mayo -- serve on a few whole grain crackers or with celery sticks.
• 1.5 oz of chocolate-covered peanuts.
• 1 granola bar.
• 1 individual container of soup – but watch out for creamy varieties, which can be higher in calories.
• 1 stick of low-fat string cheese.
• 2 tbsp of hummus spread on 1 mini whole wheat pita.
• ½ bagel topped with 1 tbsp fat-free cream cheese.
• 10 baby carrots with 2 tbsp light or fat-free ranch dressing.
• 1 hard-boiled egg.
• 6 cups of air-popped popcorn sprinkled with Italian, Parmesan or garlic seasoning.
• 1 small handful of pretzels – again, check those nutrition labels for serving size.
• ½ cup low-fat, fat-free or no sugar added frozen yogurt -- top with 1 cup fresh strawberries or blueberries for additional flavor and a power-packed antioxidant punch.
• 1 cup pineapple or cantaloupe with ½ cup fat-free cottage cheese
Keep in mind that it is easy to let snacking work against you. Beware of over doing it. If portions aren’t controlled, or you choose high-calorie options that do not fit into your daily calorie goals, the calories can add up, leading to weight gain over time. Whenever snacks come in their own packages, be sure to check the nutrition facts panel for the appropriate serving size (e.g. number of crackers). Just remember to “snack smart” and you can keep hunger at bay while maintaining your goals for healthier living!