I am a college student, it’s a Wednesday morning, and I have been sitting in class for about an hour. Although I ate breakfast, I’m starving, unable to focus, and dreaming of lunch even though it’s only 9:30 a.m. Then, a couple hours after I have devoured a huge lunch, I find myself quickly spiraling into an afternoon crash and falling asleep in my seat. Next thing I know, I’m downing a coffee just to stay awake the rest of the day and be productive. After a few hours at the library, my stomach starts to grumble and I’m cranky. And forget my post-school day workout because I don’t have enough energy for that! Although I had planned to cook dinner at home, I’m so starved that I stop and pick up a quick dinner on my way home.
I bet many of you have experienced a vicious cycle similar to mine. Can you imagine how my day may have gone differently had I packed some healthy snacks in my backpack in the morning?
Snacking is often associated with guilt, cheating, or unhealthy food. For this reason, many people avoid snacking in between meals because they don’t think they should or because they think snacking is bad for them.
However, don’t be afraid to satisfy your hunger with a snack! According to a recent survey1, Americans with the healthiest overall eating practices were twice as likely to snack as compared to those with less healthy eating habits. All statistics aside, this means that snacking done the right way can be a wonderful tool for making lasting improvements in your diet and health. Being prepared with healthy options when a snack attack arises will help prevent mindlessly reaching for the candy jar, downing a pint of ice cream, stopping at the vending machine, or overeating at mealtime. It will curb cravings, give your mind and body the energy to keep going all day, and help you make better choices all day long.
Here are a few tips to help satisfy your between-meal hunger and make healthy snacking a way of life:
1. Rid your pantry of tempting, processed snacks. Avoid 100 calorie packs or packaged snacks high in added sugar. These are not satisfying and may leave you just wanting more. Leave healthy options in a convenient location and within reach.
2. Get creative because your options are endless. Yay, freedom! Here are a few rules of thumb to help you make a healthy snack:
- The more protein, fiber, and fat (no trans fats, please) your snack has, the longer you will stay full. Choose items that you enjoy and are made with real food.
- Include 2 different food groups in your snack.
- Keep your snack around 200 calories.
- Always keep it interesting with a wide variety of snacks and always try fun, fresh ideas every once in a while.
3. Before you go to the grocery store, plan what snacks you are going to want. Having a plan at the grocery store will help you stay on track and deny the tempting plethora of (not so healthful) snack options available to us.
4. If you know you are going to be busy, prepare your snacks ahead of time. Always keep healthy, pre-prepared snacks readily available and easy to eat. This way you can easily slip something into your purse, briefcase, or lunchbox in the morning. On the same note, having snacks divided out ahead of time will help you control the amount you eat so you don’t mindlessly eat more that you need or are hungry for.
5. Listen to your body. Be sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day so you don’t mistake thirst for hunger and then snack when you’re not really hungry. Also, never deny the fact that you are hungry. If you need 2 mid-morning snacks, perfect. If you find that you are fine in the morning but need a snack right after work, go for it. If you need small snacks in the morning, after lunch, and after work, more power to ya! Don’t limit yourself to what you think you should be doing. Go with what your body is telling you.
6. While snacking, focus on eating and enjoy it. Try not to multitask while you eat because you may consume more if you’re not thinking about what you’re eating.
7. Snacking isn’t for everyone. For some people, snacking can lend itself to grazing and overeating. If you struggle with this, pay special attention to tip #2 above.
By now you’ve got to be craving some ideas for delicious, healthy snacks. Wait no more!
Here are some of my favorites to help get you started:
|Handful of dried fruit and nuts|
|Half an avocado with sea salt|
|Air popped popcorn and Parmesan cheese|
|Hard boiled eggs|
|Apple slices and almond or peanut butter|
|Dark chocolate square and peanut butter|
Smoothie made with banana, strawberries, almond milk, and oats
Guest blog by Katie!
Katie is a former intern at Grass Roots Nutrition and a recent graduate of Miami University with degrees in nutrition and zoology. She is attending the dietetic internship program at Bradley University in order to become a registered dietitian. She loves running, traveling, and cooking healthy recipes with friends and family. Her favorite foods are dark chocolate and cheese!