February 21, 2023
Six Ways to Snack Smarter
Good relationships are important, right? Chances are you consider your connections with your parents, siblings, sweetheart, rowdy high-school crew, or coworkers among your most significant. And if you have a four-legged furry friend, it’s probably right up there, too.
But what about your relationship with another vital part of your life? Something that’s with you every day—morning, noon and night. Something that is literally in every fiber of your being?
What about your relationship with food?
We can’t live without food. Food fuels our bodies. It nourishes our cells and organs. Food plays a big role in our good health. Plus, eating is one of life’s great pleasures.
Still, not all foods are equal. Americans eat very differently than they 50 years ago. The arrival of processed and fast-foods ushered in a decline in home-cooked family meals that most often featured fresh proteins, vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
The rise of the billion-dollar snack industry puts sugary, fatty foods with almost zero nutritional value at our fingertips nearly everywhere. Unhealthy snacks have fueled a rise in obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.
Of course, not all snacking is bad. The right snacks can actually boost your health. You just need to snack smarter. A snack strategy can help. Here’s some info to consider when making yours.
Know what you’re up against.
The snacking industry is huge. In 2022, Americans bought and devoured nearly $106 billion worth of snacks—a serious uptick from pre-pandemic sales. Hands down, Americans consume more snacks than any other country in the world.
There’s a reason we gobble them up: The food giants intentionally make snack foods hard to resist. A serious chunk of change is spent figuring out what makes a snack most craveable. Two words—sugar and salt.
Experts say those two ingredients make snacks addictive because of the intense and immediate pleasure they provide. Sugar affects the brain 20 times faster than nicotine, making it more addictive than smoking! Snack food companies “engineer” their products to trigger the brain’s on switch. They make it nearly impossible to eat just one chip or cracker or cookie.
Ditch the prepackaged snacks. Instead, create your own snacks using a variety of real, fresh, whole foods.
Figure out why you snack.
Do you reach for a snack because you’re really hungry? Did you skip breakfast or lunch? Are you bored? Is eating—even when you’re not hungry—a mindless habit? Do you snack while working on your computer, binge watching your favorite show or doing other things? Do you snack to keep your blood sugar in check?
Understanding why you snack and the times of day you most often snack can help you avoid mindlessly loading up on sugar and fat-laden calories that pack on the excess pounds and put your health at risk.
One thing nutrition expert agree on: don’t snack while you are doing something else. Eating while you
watch TV, answer emails or work make it easy to lose track of how much you’re actually eating.
Learn how to choose a healthy snack.
There are some simple guidelines you can use to enjoy guilt-free snacks that are tasty and nutritious.
Combine food groups for an appetizing variety of tastes, textures and nutrients.
Eat raw fruits and veggies for a low-calorie dose of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Nosh on nuts and seeds rich in protein and healthy fats that help you feel full longer.
Work in whole grain versions of crackers, breads, or pretzels for an energy boost.
Fight belly fat while you snack.
Make munching count with snacks that pair protein and fiber. Protein boosts your metabolic rate so your body burns more calories. It also lowers insulin levels—a major contributor to belly fat! Fiber slows digestion so you feel full longer. Here are six protein and fiber fat-fighting combos you can try:
- 1 large apple with 1 cup of low-fat milk
- 1 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt mixed with 1 cup of berries
- 1 cup of baby carrots with 2 tablespoons of hummus
- 1 hard-boiled egg with a half cup of grapes
- 1 cup of steamed in-the-pod edamame
- 1 kiwi with a 100-calorie pack of almonds
Keep snack around 100 calories or less.
It’s easy to do when you pair a creative mix-and-match of fresh fruits and veggies with low-fat dips and salsas. Here are a few idea starters known as “the perfect 100.”
- 1 cup raspberries – 64 calories
- 2 cups diced watermelon – 80 calories
- 1 medium bell pepper dipped in ¼ cup black bean dip
- 2 medium celery stalks dipped in ¼ cup pico-style guacamole
- ½ medium cantaloup – 100 calories
- ½ cup sugar-snap peas dipped in 2 tablespoons of hummus – 81 calories
You can even drink your snack! Steer clear of the sugary lattes, though. Instead, whip up a fast and delicious smoothie using one-half of a banana, ½ cup strawberries and ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt. At just 200 calories it not only tastes good, it’s loaded with lean protein, vitamin C and potassium!
Snack to beat back stress.
When you’re stressed, your body craves sweet, salty, high-fat foods that stimulate the release of pleasure chemicals. Don’t raid the vending machine. Instead, reach for one of these tasty stress-busting snacks.
Pistachios & Walnuts: Just a handful each day can keep your heart from racing when the pressure is on.
Avocados: Rich in potassium, creamy avocados help lower blood pressure. Just half an avocado has more potassium than a banana.
Oatmeal: This “feel good” carbohydrate helps the brain produce serotonin—a relaxing chemical that is absorbed slowly so your body feels good.
Oranges: Juicy vitamin C lowers blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. Plus, it boosts your immune system.
There are so many tasty, good-for-your snacks at your fingertips. It just takes a little smart thinking and planning to put them in your orbit. When you’re mindful about your snack choices, you can fuel up on fresh, healthy snacks that are satisfying and nutritious. You’re worth it!
Have questions? Your family doctor is a good source for info about healthy eating.
Stay on top of all your regular wellness checks. It’s the best way to ensure health issues are found early when they can be treated more easily.
Sources: How American Turned Into a Nation of Snackers, CNN Business, 2022; 7 Ways to Snack Smarter, Harvard Health Publishing, 2019; How do Protein and Fiber Work Together, SFGate, 2018; 50 Healthy Snacks 100 Calories or Less, Cookin Canuck, 2023; Eat Right, Stress Less: 8 Stress Relieving Foods to Snack On, The American Institute of Stress, 2020.
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