Who doesn’t love snack time?! Snacks can be a great addition to a healthy meal plan, but they can also be a source of extra calories that can affect weight loss or other health goals
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When clients ask me about snacking, I spend a lot of time educating them not just about what foods to eat, but how to tell if they should really be eating a snack at all. I have two important questions to think about before reaching for that snack:
Is it hunger or a craving? Are you reaching for a snack just because it’s snack time? Or because you’re bored, stressed , thirsty, or tired? It’s important to consider not just what you’re eating but why you’re eating it. Evenings are the main problem area for snacking when we aren’t actually hungry. If you’re not sure if you’re hungry or want something to eat because of cravings, here’s a strategy to try:
Choose a healthy food that would be a good snack option to have on hand, but one that you don’t absolutely love. Let’s use hard-boiled eggs as an example. They’re a high protein, healthy snack option that most people would eat for breakfast or if they’re hungry, but don’t usually crave "just because."
Then when you’re sitting at home and start feeling like you want a snack, stop and think “do I feel like eating one of those boiled eggs right now?” If the answer is yes, it's likely hunger, so go to the fridge and grab that egg!
If the answer is no, you’re probably just having a craving. In those cases, try drinking a glass of water and finding something else to do that’s not related to food. We often mistake hunger for thirst, so another option would be to drink a glass of water, wait 15-20 minutes, and if you still feel hungry, then go ahead and grab a snack.
Is this snack going to fuel my body? Think about whether the food you’re about to eat contains vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, healthy fat, or whole grains. If it’s something like cookies, soda, chips, or candy bars, the answer is no, there’s not much nutrition in there. That means that you’ll feel a temporary satisfaction from those foods, but soon after you’ll likely feel hungry and maybe even have a drop in energy levels (aka, you’ll be “hangry”). :-/
Instead of those “empty calorie” foods that don’t truly provide energy and nutrition for our bodies, it’s important to reach for snacks that are good sources of protein, fiber, healthy fats, or whole grains. When people come to me complaining of low energy levels (especially later in the day), swapping a sugary, processed snack for a healthier and nutrient-dense option is a small change that has huge impacts on energy.
If you’re looking for ideas on what foods to choose for a snack, here are some of my tips on healthy snacks.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with a different concept (for me) when it comes to snacking, and I’m loving it! Instead of eating three smaller meals plus 2-3 small snacks during the day, I’ve started eating just one slightly larger snack each day (in addition to my three meals, of course!).
It all started one day not too long ago, when I really stopped to ask myself the questions above about my snacks…and I realized something that was very interesting to me. I wasn’t snacking because I was hungry most of the time. It was because I had dubbed certain times of the day as “snack time,” so I would just eat.
I really didn’t need a snack between breakfast and lunch, and I found that eating just a little bit more at dinner meant I could make dinner the end of my food-day. I started having one mid-afternoon snack that’s more filling, and I’m so much less hungry going into the evening!
I’m not saying it’s wrong to snack multiple times per day or to eat six “mini-meals,” but it is important to figure out what works for you and your body. And right now for me this little change has been awesome.
One of my favorite go-to options the past few weeks has been this lovely mango toast (pictured below). I simply toast a slice of whole grain bread (the one I use has 5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein so it's super filling), add some whipped cream cheese and whatever fruit I have around. Mangoes are amazing right now, so that’s been my favorite option.
I know I probably don't even need to officially type up a recipe for this three-ingredient treat, but I did anyway just so you have absolutely no excuse not to try it! Feel free to sub your favorite fruit in for the mango to make this recipe your own. Happy snacking (or not snacking)! ;)
Mango Cream Cheese Toast
Makes 1 serving
- 1 small mango, peeled and chopped (or about 1/2 cup of your favorite fresh fruit)
- 1 slice whole grain bread of choice
- 1 tablespoon whipped cream cheese
- Toast the bread. Spread cream cheese on the bread and top with mango or other fruit. Serve extra mango on the side if needed.
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