Do you find yourself going too long between meals, leading you to either overeat or reach for convenient but far from nutritious foods (or both)? Perhaps you’ve tried snacking on typical vending machine or office snacks like pretzels, chips, or gummies, but find yourself hungry again an hour later. We’ve all been there! Snacks can be an easy and healthy way to pack more nutrition into your day and to tide you over until your next meal, but planning ahead is key.
We have a few suggestions on how to choose snacks that do it all: these tips maximize flavor and boost satiety and nutritional value at the same time.
Start with the right building blocks:
Aim to incorporate at least two out of these three macronutrients with each snack: fiber, protein, and healthy fat. These combinations will slow digestion, keeping you fuller for longer and stabilizing your blood sugar, which means no mood- or energy-related ups and downs and less overeating at your next meal.
To pack more fiber into your meal, start with fresh fruits or vegetables. Foods made with whole grains are also a great option. For protein, reach for Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs, or sliced deli meats. For crunch, add a sprinkle of nuts or seeds, or for extra creaminess, add hummus, pesto, or avocado–all of these options are packed with healthy fats.
Here are a few tasty ideas to get you started:
- Apple or banana + peanut butter
- Plain greek yogurt + blueberries + walnuts
- Hard boiled egg + whole wheat cracker + pesto spread
- Carrots or peppers + whole wheat pita strips + hummus
- Beef jerky + dried apricots or dates
- Guacamole + bean salsa + whole grain tortilla chips
- Pear slices + feta crumbles or goat cheese
- Plain kefir + berry smoothie
Second, focus on portion:
You might be wondering what an appropriate size for your snack looks like. This depends on a number of factors, including your own calorie needs and activity level, as well as when you’ll be eating your next meal or how hungry you are. In general, a good guideline is to measure with parts of your hand:
- Vegetables: 1-2 fists
- Fruit or whole grains: 1 fist
- Dips and spreads: 1-2 thumbs
- Eggs and meats: 1 palm
- Nuts or seeds: 1 cupped palm
For example, if you’ve decided to have an apple with almond butter, choose an apple that is roughly the size of your fist, and enjoy it with 1-2 scoops of almond butter about the size of your thumb. If you’ll be making meat and veggie roll-ups, portion first by folding your deli-meats to be the width and thickness of your palm, and estimating your veggie strips to make up 1-2 of your fists.
These suggestions won’t apply to everyone all the time, but the principle of pausing to consider how much you want to eat is important. Purchasing snack-size packages can do some of the work for you; many dips and spreads like guacamole and hummus come in single serving packs. If you’re putting together a snack from full-sized containers, make sure to pre-portion your snack onto a plate or in your lunch box. Try to resist grabbing the bag or the entire tub–since you can’t eyeball how much you’ve already eaten, it’s difficult to know how much you’re consuming.
Finally, go forth prepared!
After you’ve figured out the snack combinations you enjoy and that work well for your lifestyle, stock up on your favorites so that it’s easy to make a healthy choice. Keep it simple with store-bought hummus or guacamole, or prepare a batch of hard-boiled eggs before your week starts. While these options might be a little pricier, you can purchase pre-sliced veggies like bell peppers and cucumbers–or just stick to baby carrots. If you’ll be snacking at work, consider what’s available there or what you might be able to keep handy at your desk or office refrigerator. For instance, have a “work” jar of peanut butter, a tub of greek yogurt or fruit drawer. Meal planning can be a real challenge for some to begin with, so make snacking as straightforward as possible.