snack attack! some thoughts on snacking smart

snack attack! thoughts on snacking smart // www.heynutritionlady.com

Happy Nutrition Month! I thought this would be a good time to shed some light on a nutrition topic that I see a lot of confusion around when I’m talking to my friends and clients… snacking!

It always surprises me how frequently I speak to people who perceive snacking as something negative. At the same time, snacking is on the rise – according to the Hartman Group, around 50% of eating occasions are now snacks, which account for about one-third of adult calorie consumption in the US.

So let’s reframe things where snacks are concerned.

snack definition // www.heynutritionlady.com

 

 

 

 

 

A snack is a small amount of food eaten between meals. Its purpose is to bridge the gap between full meals, fuel activities, and provide small bursts of energy. A snack is not intended to satisfy cravings or the munchies – those are treat occasions, and I think it can be helpful to separate them from snacking occasions, if only in your head.

how to snack smart - produce + protein // www.heynutritionlady.comWhen people ask me about healthy snacking, produce + protein is always the first thing I tell them, and I think it’s a great goal to have in mind when planning out healthy snacks. The combination of produce and protein tends to be satiating due to the combination of dietary fiber from the produce together with the protein, which means that the food will move through your digestive system at a moderate pace while keeping blood sugar levels stable. Reaching for a bunch of crackers, on the other hand, can cause your blood sugar to spike then crash, which will wreak havoc on both your appetite and your energy levels.

Examples of produce + protein snacks:

  • Hummus and carrot sticks
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Greek yoghurt with a handful of grapes

how to snack smart - a snack-sized portion // www.heynutritionlady.comWhen reaching for a snack, be mindful that the purpose of the snack is to bridge to your next meal, not become a meal in of its self. While our bodies need fuel, we also benefit from giving ourselves a break from constant digestion. With this in mind, when you’re choosing snacks go for portions that will leave you satisfied yet ensure you’ll still be hungry when the time comes for your next meal.

Examples of snack-sized portions

  • 2 Tbsp hummus and 1 cup of carrot sticks
  • 1 sliced apple with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt with 1/2 cup of grapes

If your snack is intended to either fuel or recover from a workout, it should follow a different set of parameters. For example, to fuel my lunch hour swim and get me through to my late lunch, I often choose an oat bar or a portion of overnight oats to bridge between a very light breakfast (typically a green smoothie) and a hearty late lunch. Any snacking between lunch and dinner follows the above guidelines because I’m not fuelling an activity.

how to snack smart - mindful snacking // www.heynutritionlady.comMindfulness is an important component of smart snacking. Many of the people I work with who perceive snacking as a negative habit are snacking in a way that leaves them feeling badly about themselves. Y’all know I don’t believe in food guilt, and this situation can often be alleviated with some simple mindfulness exercises.

For example, ask yourself why you’re reaching for a snack. Are you tired? Bored? Lonely? Sad? Having a craving? Or are you legit hungry? If the answer is anything other than true hunger, try replacing the snack with something else, like a quick walk around the block, some simple stretches, or a nice cup of tea. If you’ve done those things and you still want a snack, then have one.

Ask yourself what kind of snack you really want. Is it salty? Crunchy? Sweet? If you’re in the mood for something crunchy and you bully yourself into having a cup of yoghurt instead, it’s likely not going to fit the bill. But if you’re after crunchy does it have to be potato chips? Or can it be celery instead?

For many of us, if snacking occasions happen when we’re tired and hungry, we have a difficult time controlling both the type of snack and the portion. One of the ways I work around this is to pre-portion those trigger foods into individual servings. For example, if you buy a big bag of nuts, take some time to pre-portion them into single servings in small jars or baggies. Sure you can always reach for another, but the fact that they’re pre-portioned demands a moment of pause that creates a moment for mindfulness. Are you actually still hungry, or has that message not yet reached your brain? Would a cup of tea satisfy you now? Just take a moment and think about it.

Another thing I often recommend for people who are trying to get their snacking under control is to keep a snacking journal. Take note of how you were feeling when you reached for a snack, what the snack was, how you felt after you ate it. Even if you reach for a snack and then have a mindful moment and decide not to eat it, or to swap it out for a healthier or portion controlled alternative, make a note of that.

Snack Attack!

I’ve got loads of healthy snack ideas, I so thought I’d start sharing them here. Starting tomorrow I’m going be sharing a healthy snack idea each week, so be sure to check back, and continue to check the Snack Attack category for weekly snack suggestions.



 

Comments

  1. This is all such good advice Katie. I’ve been struggling with snacking recently (or not snacking or snacking on the wrong thing) so this has really focused my attention on what I should and shouldn’t be eating + the fact that snacking doesn’t have to be a bad thing!

  2. I think the key is to snack before you feel too hungry that you want to eat the whole pantry. However, learning at what time you are usually hungry is tough!!

    • Definitely! There’s a level of hungry that’s okay, and there’s a level of hungry where it’s like, watch out or I’m going to eat YOU in a minute! Learning to listen to your hunger cues and knowing when and what to snack on takes some practice.

  3. My go-to afternoon snack is plain greek yogurt with frozen blueberries. I pack all my lunches and snacks for the week on Sundays so I have to do is grab and go. While the blueberries sit in the fridge awaiting my snacking, they melt and ooze out all the beautiful purple juice. Then when it comes time to snack I mix it in and it makes my yogurt a lovely lavender color! I like this snack for the produce + protein combination, plus there’s no added sugar. I stopped eating the flavored yogurts a while ago due to all the sugar and other additives. Looking forward to seeing your snack ideas!

    • That sounds like a great snack, Claire! I do something similar with frozen raspberries on my overnight oats, and used to do frozen blackberries (we’d pick tonnes in the summer and freeze them) with yoghurt as well. Way to do you lunches and snacks on Sundays, that’s great!

  4. I like the idea of pre-porting snack items. Nuts are one of my favorite things to snack on, but give me a big bag of them and I might just down the whole thing! I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of snack ideas you have to share in the coming weeks. 🙂

  5. Yes to a cup of tea! When I’m starting to fade in the late afternoon, I always brew a cup of tea or two. It perks me up and I no longer feel tired or hungry. Thanks for the great post Katie. 🙂

    • I find something about that nice warm drink really helps keep cravings under control, and also allows me to assess whether I’m actually hungry or I just thought I might be.

  6. I always chug some water if I feel like munching. Most of the time I think I’m hungry, when in reality my body is just craving water. My favourite snacks are definitely nuts, dried fruit, hummus + veggies, or apples with almond butter. The best kind of fast food is simple and easy! (And not processed.)

    • I also find that a big glass of water or mug of tea most often satisfies me. And it gives me time to think about whether I’m actually hungry, or just craving something. Those sound like great snack ideas!

  7. I love your nutrition-topic posts, Katie!! I find these posts so interesting and you always have great advice in a really easy to understand way. My go-to snack has always been apples and peanut butter. Though, I think I may overindulge on the peanut butter from time to time – something to be mindful of!!

    • Thanks for the very sweet words, Rebecca! I’m so glad you appreciate the nutrition posts! I also love apple + peanut butter together. It’s so easy to go overboard with the peanut butter, so I tend to measure it out and then put the jar away.

  8. Wow!! Your last snack attack was March 6, 2015 that seems a long time to go with out a snack. Do you recommend snacking at more regular intervals or is yearly sufficient? I guess it is personal or as needs require. Like people with hiatus hernia should have smaller meals more often and snack more. How much snacking do you feel is appropriate for a stay home dad with 1.5yr old twin boys? Great blog, very inspiring to see how productive my own blog could be if I chose to work as hard as you do. I would need more snacks though.

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