Although snacks have gained a bad reputation for leading to weight gain, snacking in and of itself isn't necessarily the lone culprit to blame. Many people have poor snacking habits that can lead to overeating. Grabbing a chocolate bar from the deli or vending machine as you’re running to meetings, for example, isn’t the smartest choice, neither is digging into a bottomless bag of chips.|
To be an effective snacker while trying to lose weight, aim for one to two snacks per day, each with around 150 calories. The time of day you snack is also important. If you go five hours or longer between meals or find yourself very hungry at a certain point during the day, that’s a perfect time to insert a healthy snack. Think of snacks as mini-meals—rather than an indulgence—and work to include a variety of food groups that help supplement meals and provide you with nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
Are You a Healthy Snacker?
To determine if you're snacking the right way or using snacks to quell boredom or sneak in an unnecessary treat, get in the habit of asking yourself these five questions next time you head to the pantry.
1. Are your portions in check?
Although you may be selecting healthy foods, you may be consuming too much during one snack. For example, almonds are very healthy as they provide healthy fats, fiber, protein, vitamin E, and riboflavin, however, one ounce (or 23 almonds) provides 163 calories. If you’re grabbing handfuls throughout the day, you could be downing hundreds, if not thousands of calories.
Make it healthy: Take a few weeks to measure portions of your snacks so you know how much you’re eating. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to visually recognize if the portions are in check. If you find yourself constantly hitting the bottom of the bag, invest in some portion-controlled Tupperware or individual Ziploc baggies to divvy up a big bag into more manageable, healthier servings.
2. Are you carb-overloading snacks?
Although whole-grain crackers and fresh fruit are healthy snacks, you want to balance them out with protein and healthy fat. Protein and healthy fat also take longer to digest, helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Make it healthy: Top whole-grain crackers with mashed avocado or small slices of mozzarella cheese. Dip apples into a healthy nut butter or enjoy a medley of fruits with nuts.
3. Are you selecting protein-only snacks?
Protein is part of a healthy eating plan, but eating only protein foods won’t get your body the nourishment you need to stay healthy.
Make it healthy: Pair protein-rich foods with fruit, yogurt, whole-grain crackers and vegetables for a well-balanced snack. These foods add fiber and many other nutrients that aren’t necessarily found in protein foods.
4. Are you mindlessly munching?
The endless bag of nuts, dried fruit or whole-grain crackers isn’t a healthy part of any weight-loss plan. Mindlessly munching in front of the computer or while watching Netflix can rack up thousands of unnecessary calories.
Make it healthy: Never bring a large or oversized container meant for numerous servings with you to the computer, couch or anywhere else where you might fall victim to mindlessly munching. Instead, portion out the snack you want on a small plate or bowl before eating and put the larger bag away.
5. Are you relaxed when you snack?
Most people snack when they’re on the go. Whether you’re sitting in traffic, are late to a meeting or are running errands, you don’t want to shove the food in your mouth in the hopes of settling your stomach.
Make it healthy: Choose a stress-free environment to snack, such as next to a window, in a park or sitting down at a table. Then, enjoy your food and savor every bite. Reducing stress, even when you snack, can help lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.