Snack Smart: An Easy Guide to Healthy Snacking
There are countless diets or meal plans out there that make healthy eating a breeze when it comes to meal time, but snacking is often where the nasty stuff can creep in. Easy, unhealthy options can put a dent in your attempts at overall nutritional efficiency. But with some simple planning, you can snack healthily every day with minimal effort.
What You Need to Know
- Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Only snack when you’re hungry and actually need to do so, but also make sure you’re not starving yourself in the pursuit of losing weight.
- Plan your snacks ahead as you would meal prep. Having healthy snacks ready to go will prevent the urge to take unhealthy, easy snack options.
- Avoid snacking on processed and high sugar foods like chips, pastries, milk chocolate, ice cream and soft drinks, as they will cause crash and burn energy spikes and are low on nutrients.
- Try snacking on real whole foods such as edamame, fruit, celery, nuts, chia pudding and roasted chickpeas. These foods have a high protein content and/or the presence of vitamins and minerals that will fuel your body more efficiently.
- Sit down for your snacks like they’re their own “mini-meal” and it will trick your brain into thinking you’re fuller than you are, as you watched it disappear from start to finish.
- Eating meals and snacks high in protein, going for a walk, sleeping well and altering your environment to remove temptation are all effective ways to help prevent constant cravings to snack.
We’re probably not blowing anyone’s mind by saying that unhealthy snacking is pretty easy. The convenience of thoughtless, processed snack options has a particularly enchanting siren song. Exciting packaging, fun flavours and the ease of preparation (often none) make it very understandable that many fall under the spell.
That’s why we’ve created a handy guide to healthy snacks so you’ll find it easy to eat conscientiously, not mindlessly. Making a few changes to when and how you snack, what you snack on and even how you eat at meal times can have a hugely positive effect on your overall nutrition. Let’s curb those cravings and snack with smarts.
When should I be snacking?
One of the joys of snacking is that it doesn’t quite have to stick to the rigidity of regular meals. You don’t have to snack, but rather, you get to snack, so it’s important to only do so when you’re hungry. Don’t put food in your body unnecessarily just because it’s when you normally eat, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or at least maintain weight.
Conversely, don’t starve yourself! When the hunger pangs hit, that’s your body telling you it needs fuel and you shouldn’t deprive it of that. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, starving yourself will likely result in your body being deprived of nutrients and energy it needs. This results in increased irritability and higher chance of you gorging on easy, processed foods.
Just worked out? A snack or a protein shake can replenish your energy stocks. Feeling the dip at 3pm? A quick snack can help you power through to the end of the work day. Your need for fuel and resultant hunger will be greatly affected by your energy output, so be conscious of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling and you’ll snack at the right times.
How should I approach snacking?
As in life, good planning will get you very far. A lack of planning will make it more likely for you to resort to easy options like fast food, chips and pastries. There’s a seemingly endless list of snack options that are bad for you, and advertising means you’re quite often exposed to them.
A little effort goes a long way though, and just a tiny bit of research will show you that there’s an equally long list of healthy snacks options made with whole food ingredients that are just as if not more delicious! Prep these early in the week and you can snack healthily and easily whenever you need.
Another thing to be mindful of in your approach to snacking is to, well, be mindful. It’s very easy to sit and mindlessly throw chips into your face while sitting on the couch watching TV, or even at your desk while you work. However, studies have shown that it’s actually more advisable to treat your snacks with the pomp and circumstance of a regular meal.
If you act as though your snack is its own “mini-meal” by sitting down and focusing on it as you would breakfast, lunch and dinner, it can train your brain to a degree. Giving its consumption your full attention and watching yourself devour it from beginning to end will help contribute to a feeling of being full and satisfied.
You saw it whole and saw it… well, no longer there at all. Feels pretty satisfying, right? Like watching a puzzle being completed. Speaking of completing the puzzle, we better tell you about some healthy snack options to apply this knowledge to eating.
What foods should I be snacking on?
DOs and DON’Ts
Healthy snacking isn’t just about what you should be eating, but what you shouldn’t be eating as well. Unfortunately, putting bad things into your body isn’t cancelled out by putting good things in on top of it, as much as we all wish it was that way.
Foods very high in sugar are certainly something to steer clear of in your snacking. While they will perk you up temporarily, you’ll then suffer the dreaded sugar crash and end up craving more pick-me-ups.
Research has also shown a consistent intake of foods high in sugar not only results in weight gain but decreases the lack of diversity within the gut. As a result, your gut health may suffer.
SNACK FOODS TO AVOID INCLUDE:
- Fast food
- Milk chocolate
- Sugary biscuits
- Soft drinks
- Ice cream
This (far from exhaustive) list of unhealthy snack foods is seemingly endless and growing by the day. Luckily, there is also an incredibly vast array of healthy, whole food options for snacking too. If you’re looking to keep off the kilos, snacks with less than 12g of fat per serve are a good base.
Wholefoods rich in fibre and protein can keep you feeling fuller for longer and help fuel muscle recovery and gut health. Enjoy food pairings such as yoghurt and berries, veggie sticks with dip, a handful of nuts with some dried fruit or a smashed hard boiled egg on a couple of wholegrain crackers. These are a great alternative to sugar-filled snacks and they’ll keep those hunger cravings at bay.
HEALTHY SNACK FOODS TO EAT INCLUDE:
- Whole pieces of fruit
- Cucumber and hummus
- Chia pudding
- Protein shakes
- Natural peanut butter on celery
- Sundried tomato
- Roasted chickpeas
This is only a very small selection of the myriad healthy snacks ideas and combinations you can try. There are plenty more ideas out there, or you can even come up with your own. Get creative. Or let us be creative for you, with our range of healthy snacks and shakes.
What are some effective strategies to curb cravings?
MAKE PROTEIN YOUR FRIEND
Good planning extends to your regular meals as well as snacking. If your meals are full of the macronutrients you need i.e. high in protein and with a healthy balance of good fats and carbohydrates, then you’ll feel full and satisfied for longer. This will reduce your cravings so you won’t need to resort to incessant grazing all day long.
Aiming for meals to contain at least 20g of protein and snacks being above 10g of protein per serve can be a great way to curb hunger levels and avoid mindless snacking.
TAKE A STROLL
Sometimes a simple distraction is all you need to prevent unnecessary or at least, unwanted snacking. Take yourself for a walk. Absorbing the scenery and being among the fresh air is all you need to take your mind off any minor hunger pangs and won’t hurt if you’re trying to lose weight too.
Make sure you get a good night’s sleep. The less you sleep, the more tired you’ll be and thus, your body will cry out for more fuel to try get your sleepy body working more efficiently. A good night’s sleep will keep your brain and body satisfied and in turn, your stomach too!
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
Temptation is often hanging overhead come snack time. “Oh, if I have it, I’ll eat it, “ is something you’ll often hear. The key is to change your environment. Remove yourself from the temptation or remove the temptation altogether.
Whether that means not buying unhealthy snacks or just taking yourself out of view when they come out: it’s an effective strategy. For people who are trying to break the habitual and mindless snacking, keeping foods away from your general eyeline in the fridge or pantry can go a long way to breaking those long standing habits.
Following these simple guidelines will have you on the road to healthy snacking every day! And it’ll taste great the entire time.
After a healthy snack idea that’s also as delicious as they come? Check out our range of Protein Bites, Keto Bars and Protein Shakes.