The Power of Snacking

Snack.  One simple word… when you read it, what do you think of?  Here’s a thought, snacking can be your passport to increased energy and better nutrition.

Food is fuel.  It’s what gives you energy.  We are at our best when we have a consistent source of high quality fuel throughout the day.  Ever use a re-chargeable battery?  When the battery juice gets low, whatever it’s powering runs a little slower, if at all.  Think of your body the same way.   Consistent fueling keeps you energized.

That doesn’t mean loading up on Twinkies or chocolate frosted cupcakes (no offense Hostess™)  Here’s the deal, you are what you eat.  Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you have heard that we need to eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains and fiber.  These are your quality foods… if you put the good stuff in, you get good stuff out.  Think of snacking as your way to eat more of the good stuff.

But I’m trying to lose weight…  I need to eat less, not more!  One of the main reasons people overeat is because they let themselves get too hungry.  Your biological need for food is strong.  Becoming overly hungry makes it difficult to stop eating when you finally do eat.  As a general rule, try not to go more than 4-5 hours without eating.  Keeping your body fed consistently curtails overindulging.

But I don’t know what to eat.  Good nutrition is a balancing act.  Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are macronutrients that provide specialized health benefits.  Eating a variety of these foods ups the ante on your overall nutrition score.  Picture your snack as a mini meal with a purpose.  Think of ‘real’ food instead of traditional ‘snacks’ like chips and pretzels.  (Not that these are bad, but there’s a time and a place for everything)  Snacks are an opportunity to give your body more ‘good stuff’; fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

One easy way to a nutritious snack; start with a fruit or vegetable and combine it with a lean protein, whole grain or healthy fat.   For example, an apple and a small handful of raw nuts;  cucumber slices and feta cheese; baby carrots and hummus.  Pairing up your foods in this way not only gives you a variety of  nutrients but because proteins and fats take longer to digest, you to feel full longer.

Stick to whole foods by staying close to nature.  By avoiding processed foods you will reduces excess sugars, salts, chemicals and preservatives in your body.  Learn to shop the perimeter of your supermarket.  You may also want to reconsider your choices of ‘diet’ or ‘low-calorie’ products.  In order to make these products taste better, food manufacturers add sugars and salt.  For example, compare the labels of low-fat peanut butter and a natural one (ingredients: peanuts).  The low-fat version has added sugar (high-fructose corn syrup).  The healthy peanut oils have been replaced with hydrogenated oils and other additives to prevent separation.  My advice (not that you asked for it, but since you are still reading this, you may be curious) … go natural!!   Keep it simple, read your labels, aim for 5 ingredients or less and remember you shouldn’t need a dictionary to pronounce the ingredients in the list!

OK enough with the lecture, let’s get down to some examples:

  • Hummus with Pita and Peas:  3 tablespoons hummus; 1/2 whole-grain pita, cut into pieces; and 1/2 cup pea pods or shelled edamame.
  • Oatmeal and Berries:  1/2 cup of oatmeal topped with a handful of berries (make it with skim milk for added protein).
  • Spiced Maple Yogurt:  6 ounces plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon
  • Tomato Juice and Cheese:  8-ounce V8 juice with 1 piece of string cheese
  • Cheese and Crunch:  A Laughing Cow® cheese wedge spread on Wasa™ crackers or celery sticks.  For a Mexican flavor, top with salsa.  Add black beans for even more fiber and protein.
  • Waffle and Fruit:  Toast a whole grain waffle and top with low-fat yogurt and sliced fruit.
  • Inside-Out-Sandwich: top a slice of turkey or ham with mustard or salsa, cheese of your choice and wrap it around a sesame bread stick.
  • Mini Pizza:  top a whole grain English muffin with pizza sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese…bake and enjoy!
  • Fruit and a nuts:  Apple slices and some peanut or almond butter or a handful of nuts OR try a 4-ounce mandarin-orange cup topped with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • Fruit Kebabs:  Alternate a fruit of your choice (grapes work well), with cubed cheese and roasted turkey or chicken on a kebab stick.  By the way… don’t ever run with a stick in your mouth!   🙂
  • Fruit Burrito:  Top a small whole grain wrap with either a cheese spread or your favorite nut butter and sliced fruit.  (Bananas and strawberries are our favorites)
  • Sweet Potato Bake:  Sprinkle 1/2 of a baked sweet potato with some grated cheese.  Add some steamed broccoli or spinach for even more vitamins.  Now that’s a snack with a punch.
Bottom line:  Snacks are opportunities to add nutrients, minerals and protective anti-oxidants to your diet, increasing your overall health.  Nutritious snacking curbs your appetite and helps you avoid overeating.  Consistent fueling keeps you energized and ready to take on your day.  Sounds like a no-brainer to me!

If you have a favorite snack that you would like to share I would love to hear from you!

For more ideas, please visit the following websites and resources:

www.eatright.org

www.webmd.com

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