Snacks are one of the topics most commonly brought up by my patients. I don’t blame them, snacks can be daunting. A large portion of my patients come to see me eating three “100 calorie packs” at a time, thinking they are doing well because they are making a healthy choice. A snack should not be viewed as an added bonus to your lunch (essentially a treat), but a way to fend off the hangries (Doug’s description of me when I get too hungry and therefore irritable) when you return home from work. Quite honestly, I can’t make it from lunch to dinner without a little nutrition in the middle.
One hundred calorie packs are not the answer.
Although they are a great form of portion control, they provide minimal nutrition and do not ward off 5 PM hunger very well. Plus, when you finish more then one, you are just paying more money for packaging rather than for portion control. In my opinion, a good snack has 3 characteristics:
1. Contains at least 2 food groups.
Have you noticed that balance is a theme in my nutrition posts? It really is key. The more balanced your snack is, the more nutrients it contains, and the more likely it is to stay with you for a longer period of time, which transitions nicely into my next point…
2. Includes a source of both fiber and protein.
Fiber and protein (and a little healthy fat here and there) have fantastic staying power. A snack is worthless if it leaves you hungry 1 hour later. Fiber and protein are more satiating, and are much, much slower to increase our blood sugar levels. Think of a steady increase rather than a spike. Starches and simple carbohydrates (in my opinion) should not be eaten without some fiber or protein. Remember, protein doesn’t have to mean protein powder- most often, it means a spread of peanut butter to me.
3. Is low in sugar.
I am really not a fan of sugar- not sugar incorporated into foods (in reasonable amounts), but sugar eaten solo. If you have fruit snacks in your pantry right now, ditch them. They’re candy marketed to make us feel less guilty. Sugar found in foods containing protein makes me feel a little bit better. For example, I never touch the greek yogurts made with artificial sweeteners. I just don’t like how the artificial sweeteners taste in my yogurt. If there is a good bit of protein in the yogurt, I know it will reduce the spike in my blood sugar level. If you can, still try to pick a yogurt with the least amount of sugar.
I recently discovered Siggi’s Yogurt, and am in love. It’s packed with protein and balanced with just enough sweetness to dull the tartness of what your typical plain yogurt would taste like. If you’re into plain yogurt, keep it up! I’m not as good as you! Save yourself an afternoon crash and stay away from the sugar.
Some Ideas to Get You Started:
Edamame beans– OK, I lied, there’s only one food group here, but they’re so good for you. Packed with protein, and fiber, these can be found in individual packages in the freezer section and microwaved on demand.
Greek yogurt with berries OR blended into a quick smoothie– Like I said, love Siggi’s. When choosing a yogurt, look for greek strained blends with the highest protein and lowest sugar. You’ll know it’s thickened by straining (rather than by adding cream), if it’s 0% or 2% milk fat. Don’t be scared of 2%, a little fat is good for you. Plus, often they amp up the sugar in a 0% to make up for lost flavor from the fat. P.S. When I make my smoothies, I just throw frozen berries, yogurt and some milk in the blender. Forget the added juice and the 20 oz purchased smoothie.
Cheese & crackers with salsa- I’ve been eating this since I was a little girl, and quite honestly, it’s pretty nutritious. Portion control is key. Triscuits are my favorite choice because they taste gotriscuits and cheeseod and contain a little more fiber than the other varieties.
Raw veggies & hummus– a little protein, a little fiber, and a serving of vegetables to boot. Don’t need to say much more here.
Apple slices with peanut butter- Remember, a serving of peanut butter is the size of a ping pong ball. You can overdo food that is good for you.
mini muffins with a piece of cheese– Check out my Raspberry Almond Muffins. More healthy muffin recipes coming soon.
1/2 an english muffin with avocado, salt & pepper- Yum.
boiled egg- If you like eggs, this is a quick punch of protein. Like cheese, eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years. One egg is fine.
Skewered capreseSkewered Caprese– a little more labor intensive, but you could make a batch at the start of the week. Skewer mini bocconcini balls with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves. Shake a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil on top. Fancy!
Glass of milk with a mini muffin- People don’t realize that milk is a protein rich snack! Did you know there are 8 grams in 8 oz?
Piece of fruit and a small handful of almonds (1/4 cup)– I’ll be honest, fruit is a good source of fiber, but if I eat fruit alone, my stomach is growling within the hour. Almonds pair nicely to add some longevity to the snack. Watch your portions 🙂…