It's true that many people avoid snacking at all costs because they fear that it's bad practice for healthy eating. Even if our main meals are generally well balanced, it's very easy to put our total diet out of sink with a few poor choices in the snack area
However, for some snacking can prove to be a very beneficial source of nutrients, if the snacks are well chosen. By eating a few small, healthy snacks during the day you can also avoid binge eating when you do finally sit down for lunch or dinner.
Be a label detective
The most important thing to be aware of is the type of foods we snack on. Remember, that just because the label states "natural" or "pure" doesn't necessarily mean that the food is nutritious.
Choose foods having:
- No more than 3 grams per 100 grams in fat
- No more than 2 grams per 100 grams in sugar
- No more than 0.1 grams per 100 grams in sodium
- Also, avoid products containing trans fats
The biggest culprits are usually cookies, cake, chocolate, chips or nachos, and store bought granola or cereal bars, as these are loaded with saturated and trans fat, laden with sugar, salt and preservatives, etc. Most of these foods merely provide empty calories with absolutely no benefit to the body.
Here are my top 20 favorite snacks:
- 1 medium piece of fruit, such as an apple, orange, peach, slice of melon, or two smaller fruits, such as plums, kiwis or mandarins
- A handful of frozen grapes or berries
- A bowl of low fat yogurt or fromage frais with 1/2 cup unsweetened granola
- 2 wholegrain crackers spread with 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- A small handful of mixed unsalted nuts
- A bowl of sliced fruit with natural yogurt and 1 teaspoon of honey to sweeten
- 1/2 cup of 100% pure orange juice, frozen and eaten as sorbet
- 1 wholemeal pita bread, warmed, and filled with salad leaves, tomatoes and hummus
- Sliced apple eaten with a mug of low calorie hot chocolate
- Peanut butter spread on celery sticks and topped with raisins
- Chopped raw vegetables with 1 tablespoon of low fat cottage cheese or salsa
- 3 handfuls of unbuttered/unsweetened popcorn, seasoned with herbs
- Small bowl of tossed salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, mozzarella and 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing
- 1 tablespoon of dried fruit
- Homemade trail mix made with 1 cup whole-grain toasted oat cereal, combined with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 2 slices of wholegrain/multiseed bread with low fat cottage cheese and pineapple
- 1/4 cup of unsweetened stewed fruit (apple, peach etc) with 1 slice of wholegrain bread, toasted and cut into 4 strips for dunking
- Sliced apple served with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- Rice cake topped with hard-boiled egg and sliced tomato
- A fresh fruit smoothie made with semi-skimmed milk
Remember, healthy eating doesn't have to be boring. With a little imagination, you can spice up your meals and snacks! If you do get bored easily, try to vary your snacks each day to keep your taste buds interested!
As with everything, moderation is the key to smart snacking. Remember, that those who eat healthy meals and snacks are less likely to overeat and gain weight than those who skip meals.
Find more healthy food ideas and inspiration on our partner site FoodFit.com.
The holiday season can be a difficult time to maintain healthy eating habits, and one of the biggest diet pitfalls is portion control. Take the "Test Your Holiday Portion IQ" quiz to find out if your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
Melanie Thomassian is the author of Dietriffic.com, an online resource for credible dietary advice, exercise tips, and much more!