With all of the meal prepping everyone is doing these days, it’s important not to let snacks fall by the wayside. Snacks are a huge part of our daily diets: they curb hunger between meals and can also be quite good for us if done correctly. Healthy snacking is a must and needs to be full of nutrients and vitamins. Incorporate these 10 healthy snacking strategies into your daily meal planning to make sure you’re on the right track.
1. Make up for missing nutrients
Smart snacking is the perfect way to fill any nutritional gaps you may have during the day. Review your daily meal plan and see if you are low on or missing nutrients. For example, low on protein, calcium or iron? Add a mid-morning or afternoon snack of Greek yogurt or jerky to fill that gap.
2. Know your snack funds
Everyone’s daily calorie count is different, so calculate your daily needs and then decide how much you can afford for snacks. Say your daily calorie count is 1,500; allot between 350 and 400 calories each for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then assign between 150 and 200 calories for each snack.
3. Be prepared
Planning ahead and always having a smart snack available can be a lifesaver. If you find yourself starving, it’s easy to impulsively grab a candy bar at the checkout line or vending machine. Instead, keep healthy snacks in your pocketbook, gym bag and even your car’s glove compartment. Some good options include protein bars, nuts and granola bars.
4. Plate it
Putting your healthy snack on a nice (small) plate can help with portion control. We all know eating straight out of a box or bag can get you in trouble. Add a cup of green tea or coffee and it becomes a special treat. For instance, you could pair protein pretzels with a small orange and herbal green tea.
5. Watch the low-fat snacks
Just because a snack is labeled “low fat” doesn’t mean it’s low in calories. Studies have shown that people tend to overeat low-fat snacks thinking they’re lower in calories. Often, in low-fat snacks, the fat is replaced with sugar. Always read the label because, sometimes, the full-fat version is the better option.
6. Choose snacks for lasting energy
Pack snacks that will give you energy for your workouts as well as long work days. Pass on the quick snacks with empty calories, such as cookies, crackers and sugary sweets. Instead, choose a slower-digesting snack of quality protein, carbs and healthy fats for a longer-lasting energy boost. Homemade trail mix and natural nut butter on an apple, sprouted bread, or a nut-and-rice cracker are solid choices.
7. Fill up
Snack on foods with high water and fiber content to help you feel fuller. Swapping out low-calorie snacks for these can make you feel more satisfied and curb hunger for longer period of time. Topping fruit salad with one or two tablespoons of yogurt sweetened with stevia or honey or dipping raw veggies in hummus can help elevate fruit and vegetable snacks to keep you fuller longer.
8. Grab and go
Pre-packaged snacks are a great convenience, and chances are, you’re likely to stop after one bag. One tip is to make sure to read the labels, checking the sugar, fat and salt content before deciding. Even better — make your own snacks and divide into single-serve portions in reusable containers. If you’d rather purchase, the following prepackaged snacks work well:
- SkinnyPop Popcorn Cakes
- Robert's American Gourmet Pirate's Booty Baked Rice and Corn Puffs
- MadeGood Organic Gluten-Free Granola Minis
9. Have a protein-carb combo
Instead of munching on a plain stack of crackers, add a little protein. Protein-rich foods break down slower in the body and help to fill you up while healthy carbs deliver energy to the brain and body and keep blood sugar from dropping. Good ideas include roasted chickpeas or edamame and walnuts with pears.
10. Be careful with bedtime snacking
Heading to bed hungry can affect your sleep quality, and you'll be starving in the morning. Evening snacks are best if they are lower in calories and contain tryptophan and protein. Go for something like a whole-grain, complex-carb cereal with a little milk, a banana or non-fat Greek yogurt flavored with one tablespoon of plant-based protein powder.