When it comes to nutrition, the focus tends to be on your meals. However, it should be on everything you eat – including snacks. Snacking often gets a bad rap, but what you eat between meals is a crucial part of your diet. On average, about 24 percent of your daily calories come from snacks. So choosing healthy options really impacts your overall health and wellness goals.
- Increases energy
- Regulates blood sugar levels
- Increases focus and concentration
- Provides daily essential nutrients
- Prevents over-eating
- Supports weight control
- Reduces cravings
- Boosts your mood
- Helps fight heart disease, depression, and anxiety
How to Implement a Healthy Snacking Strategy
If I were to give you only one piece of advice, it would be this: keep your strategy simple! Eating healthy shouldn’t feel like an overwhelming chore. Making realistic choices that complement your lifestyle is all you need to do to achieve long-term success.
But when have you known me to give only one piece of advice? I’m about to drop some expert knowledge that will have you snacking like a pro in no time. These are the questions I get the most – and the answers you need to know.
Q. When should I snack?
A. Snack between meals, but only when you’re hungry. This will help keep your blood sugar even and prevent you from getting super hungry, which is when bad choices happen.
Q. How much snacking is too much?
A. It’s fun to reach for your favorite snacks, but you have to manage how much you’re eating in addition to what you’re eating. Try to master portion control. Instead of eating until you feel stuffed, stop eating once you feel satisfied. Savor the moment and focus on the delicious flavors and textures.
Q. What is mindful eating, and does that apply to snacking?
A. Mindful eating applies to everything you eat – meals and snacks. It’s nothing more than thinking before you eat. Get in the habit of asking yourself questions before you snack. Will this nourish me? Am I really hungry, or am I just bored or emotional? How will I feel afterward? Good? Energized? Sluggish? If there isn’t a benefit, eat something else.
Q. How do I know if I’m doing it right?
A. You know by listening to your body. So many people eat unhealthy foods and then feel awful afterward! They reach for pills or antacids every time they eat, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Bloating, nausea, fatigue, sluggishness – these are all signs that you can be making healthier choices. If that happens, it’s okay! All you have to do is listen to your body and pay attention to the signs. Nourish your body with healthier snacks, and you’ll feel so good after you eat.
Q. What are some things I can do to snack smarter?
A. You have so many options! Here are a few of my personal favorites:
- Follow the 80/20 Rule. Eat healthy 80 percent of the time, and enjoy some of your favorite foods 20 percent of the time. By not feeling completely deprived, you’ll stick with purposeful healthy eating and honor your commitment to foods that nourish your body and soul.
- Plan ahead. There’s a saying that goes, “Those who are nutritionally unprepared wind up at the McDonald’s drive-thru.” Ok, that’s not really a saying, but there is truth in it! Stocking up on healthy snacks means you’ll always have something healthy at the ready. You’ll avoid making bad choices that become very tempting when you have nothing else to eat. Take the time to make your own healthy snacks, and you’ll be prepared to make more rational choices that won’t derail your progress.
- Use snacks to fill nutritional gaps. If you typically don’t get enough fruits and veggies, try snacking on celery with a little peanut butter or yogurt with your favorite fruit. It’s a fun way to get more of the essential vitamins and minerals that you need.
Q. So long as my meals are healthy, do my snack choices really matter?
A. Absolutely! Healthy snacks provide all of the benefits listed above and round out your overall nutrition – one of the biggest contributors to a long and healthy life!
Q. What are some healthy snack options?
A. Where to start? There are so many healthy options out there, which keeps your new healthy habit fun and easy to maintain! They key is to go for snacks made with healthy, natural and whole foods, as these choices will keep you full, energized and nourished all day long. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Wings. The perfect snack for Super Bowl Sunday! The recipe includes my very own Dr. Nandi’s Ranch Dressing (because you don’t want to take your healthy snacks and drown them in fattening dips).
- Coconut Apricot Balls. Delicious, easy to make and perfect for snacking on the go!
- Seasoned Chestnuts. Ridiculously good and good for you. Chestnuts can increase your energy, improve bone health and fight off damaging free radicals.
Are you ready to snack like a pro? I challenge you to take the first step. Make one small change – swap out one processed food snack with one healthy alternative once a week. This small change will have a big impact on your overall health.
Make healthy living a part of every day.
Find this and other health-promoting articles by Dr. Partha Nandi on his website, Ask Dr. Nandi.