Snacking is one of those habits that often gets a bad rap. But nibbling throughout the day can have some powerful health benefits.
"The right snacks ward off hunger, so you feel more in control and have steady energy while waiting for your next meal," explains Pamela Nisevich Bede, MS, RD, a registered dietitian at Abbott. "And it's important to choose snacks that curb cravings and keep you satisfied."
But just because snacking has some health benefits doesn't mean you should overdo it with candy and popcorn anytime you're watching TV. Try these five snacking tips to improve your eating habits between meals and choose snacks that work hard for you, so you're not working them off later.
1. Count Your Calories
A snack is called a snack for a reason — it's not supposed to be a full meal. Healthy snacks should be between 200 to 300 calories.
"If you eat too few calories, you may find yourself reaching for another snack in less than an hour," says Bede
To avoid a snack attack, make yourself a small plate, instead of eating directly out of a bag or a box. Consider using a calorie counting app or food journaling to keep your snacking in check.
2. Fill Up on Fiber
When it comes to filling snacks, high-fiber foods are the way to go. A study published by the American College of Physicians found that people who added fiber to their diet — without changing anything else — lost weight, lowered their blood pressure, and improved their response to insulin.
Foods like oatmeal, nuts, whole grains, hummus, and vegetables are all sources of fiber. Next time you're looking for a special treat, try mixing and matching a few of these or some other high-fiber foods. Oatmeal topped with pecans is a delicious concoction even outside of breakfast time. And why not dip broccoli into hummus and ditch the carb-loaded pita slices? Or, even better, opt for a hummus that's fortified with a few different vegetables for a colorful and nutritious snack.
3. Pick a Protein
Protein is fiber's partner in crime. A study published by Biomed Central found that in comparison to fatty snacks like chips and cookies, high-protein snacks — such as Greek yogurt, cheese, meats or peanut butter — can help you control your hunger, keep you full longer, and even prevent you from eating more later.
If you're on the go, try packing a few ZonePerfect® nutrition bars. Each one is an excellent source of protein, containing up to 15 grams of protein, combining great nutrition and tasty flavor combinations into a snack you won't feel guilty about.
"The right snacks ward off hunger, so you feel more in control and have steady energy while waiting for your next meal."
Pamela Nisevich Bede, M.S., R.D., dietitian with Abbott
4. Eat Mindfully
Many people tend to eat snacks at their desks while watching TV or even when driving. "When snacking turns into mindless eating, you can quickly overeat, leading to excess calories and eventually weight gain," says Bede.
Pay attention to how you're eating by removing distractions and pausing between bites. Mindful eating can help prevent binge eating, aid in weight loss, and help people develop a healthy relationship with food. When you're finished eating, brush your teeth to curb another trip to the pantry.
5. Plan Ahead
Preparing snacks doesn't have to be a hassle. Make meal prep a weekly activity you enjoy, either with the kids or a health-conscious best friend. Fill up snack-sized baggies with your favorite goodies and keep them on hand for kids' lunches or an easy snack when you're on the go.
"One of my favorites is mixing healthy cereals like Wheat Chex with pretzels, nuts, and raisins, and making a sweet and salty treat," says Bede. "Hummus and carrots are an easy option, and a compartmentalized container with cheese cubes, whole-wheat crackers and blueberries is a nice treat, too."
By following these simple snacking tips, you can take control of your hunger — and enjoy great food along the way.
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