Snacking 101: 8 Rules to Smart Snacking
For people on the go, opting for healthy snacks can be tough. Hitting the drive-thru when your stomach is growling seems like the quickest (and cheapest) solution. The thought of munching on a healthy protein bar (not loaded with sugar) may make you sad, and may not even suppress your appetite from rearing its ugly head. During the workday, who wants to put so much time and thought into eating?
Many times, we don’t consider what is actually happening when we are hungry. Part of that is probably because our stomachs are so pissed because we made a poor lunch choice, or didn’t grab any healthy snacks to throw in our work bag.
But before you reach for a snack, you might want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Did you drink enough water today?
- Are you bored?
- Are you grabbing the right energy sources to keep you satiated and satisfied?
- Are you eating at the right times?
- Are you eating for fuel or eating to satisfy an unhealthy craving?
Once you have determined that you are actually hungry, and not just thirsty or bored, you can reach for a healthy snack. But how do you know what is healthy?
Here is a breakdown of 8 rules to smart snacking:
1. Don’t confuse thirst with hunger
A lot of times, your stomach growls because you are thirsty. When you feel hungry, first drink a glass of water. Let it sit for a bit, and see if that helps your pangs. Sometimes drinking sparkling water in between meals can help, too. Reach for the sodium-free options like Pellegrino, Perrier or La Croix, and add some lemon for an extra zing!
2. Time your snacking right
Throughout the day, you may need a snack in between your meals to curb your appetite, especially when there are extended periods of time in between each meal. The stomach can take three to four hours to empty, which is why you may need a bite to eat if you are going five to six hours in between meals. Schedule your snacks into your day to keep hunger at bay.
3. Don’t undereat at meals
Breakfast, lunch and dinner should be your main focuses for eating during the day. If you undereat, you will feel hungry sooner, which could lead to overeating in between meals. You don’t want your nosh to kill your appetite – snacks are meant to hold you over until your next meal.
4. Reach for a protein-packed snack
Protein keeps your body energized, maintains blood sugar levels, and suppresses hunger. When you are sitting at your desk and feeling hungry, reach for things like nuts and nut butter, a hard boiled egg, plain Greek yogurt with berries, a protein bar loaded with protein (not sugar), veggies and hummus, or jerky. Make sure you are eating a single serving and not overdoing it with these hunger-busters. For example, only eat a handful of nuts. If you find yourself reaching for more than a serving, consider eating more at your previous meal.
5. No emotional snacking!
Instead of reaching for food to comfort you, reach for a bottle of water, call a friend, get some fresh air, or brainstorm with a co-worker. It’s easy to snack mindlessly when you are feeling bored, stressed out, or emotional. Instead, do some deep breathing, take a moment to be present, and get control of yourself!
6. Food prep for your week
Make it a habit to prepare food ahead of time for your week. Not all of us have time to cook meals on the spot. You can pre-cook your animal proteins, chop up your veggies, pre-package your nuts and berries, and stock up on protein bars for “emergency” situations. If you prepare, you’re setting yourself up for success!
7. Reach for the real stuff and keep the ingredients simple
When it comes to smart snacking, eating an apple or chewing on almonds is typically a better alternative than power bars. While some protein bars on the market offer healthy ingredients, most are typically loaded with sugar and often times other unhealthy additives. A good rule of thumb for protein bars: the less ingredients listed, the better. Check the grams of sugar and keep it under 10 grams. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient or have no clue what it is, chances are you shouldn’t be consuming it!
8. Keep your servings in check
Reaching for snacks that have boundaries are the smart way to go – for instance eat a cup of yogurt, a whole apple, individual almond snack packs. This will keep you from overeating and adding unnecessary calories to your daily intake.
Use these eight guidelines to kick off your smart snacking habits and set yourself up for successful hunger management. Before you reach for a snack, always remember to drink water first. And, if you have a few slip-ups along the way, don’t beat yourself up! You have tomorrow to get it right. Practice makes perfect! Most importantly, listen to your body when it comes to hunger and snacking; it will tell you what it needs.
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