Daily snacking can be a smart habit. In fact, one recent report found that people with the healthiest diets snack twice as often as those with the least healthy diets. Of course, what matters most is what you reach for (and why) when you nosh. To get that right check out these four simple rules of thumb.
Develop a snack strategy
In other words, don’t snack randomly. Plan to snack during long stretches between meals. For example, if you eat lunch and noon and dinner at 7pm schedule a snack around 3 or 4pm. A well-timed snack can keep your metabolism revved, boost energy, regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, and prevent overeating later in the day.
Eat real food
A snack is a chance to fit more nutrients into your day. To maximize that opportunity forego processed snacks in favor of fresh, whole foods. Always include produce - veggies, fruit, or both - paired with other good-for-you ingredients, including healthy fat, lean protein, and whole grains. Great choices include: cut veggies, like bell pepper and cucumber, with hummus or guacamole for dipping; a smoothie made with leafy greens, fresh or frozen fruit, chickpea flour, nuts or seeds; or hard boiled eggs, paired with avocado or olive tapenade, and veggies or fresh fruit.
Raise your snacking awareness
Too often we munch out of habit, boredom, procrastination, or simply because food is there. Commit to becoming more discriminating about the “whys” behind your snack choices. You may discover that instead of being physical hungry you’re actually feeling anxious. Or perhaps you tend eat when others are eating, even if you don’t really need a snack. Once you’re aware of your patterns you can consciously work on making different choices, like talking to a friend rather than easing anxiety with food.
Keep healthy back-ups on hand
My new snack recipes that incorporate greens include deviled eggs, white bean dip, and spiced maple popcorn. But when you can’t get into the kitchen to whip something up, stash healthy portable options in your bag, so you’ll have them at the ready. A small banana and a golf ball sized portion of almonds will do, or an apple with pumpkin seeds. Stocking a healthy reserve means you’ll never have to go without if you’re hungry, or get stuck with a less than stellar option.