Today’s contribution is by Good Measure Meals’ Alissa Palladino, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-CPT
Wisely-planned snacks can be crucial to your success throughout the day. Why? Glucose is the body’s primary source of energy. And, blood glucose (AKA sugar) dips three to five hours after eating, and stored glucose is usually depleted by six hours. So, if you eat breakfast at 7 am, you are probably overly hungry by 1 pm, making it difficult to make a healthy choice at lunch. Similarly, if you eat lunch at noon, there’s a reason the vending machine starts calling your name by mid-afternoon. Your body (and brain) need fuel!
Making food choices when you’re ravenous can lead to overeating. But planning healthy snacks at key points during your day stabilizes blood sugar and controls hunger levels. By keeping hunger in check, you’re more likely to make food choices that support your goals (and less likely to devour an entire box of crackers or Girls Scout cookies as soon as you get home.
Well-planned snacks can also help you optimize your exercise. If you hit the gym after work and haven’t eaten since lunch, energy levels will be low and your workout may suffer. You may even be tempted to skip the gym altogether.
The keys to making snacks work for rather than against you is timing, type and amount. Time your snacks so they fall between your main meals and break up long periods without food. Think of your snacks as a noun instead of a verb. Tell yourself “I am having a snack,” instead of “snacking” to prevent mindless overeating. Buy or make single-serve versions of your favorite snack foods for built-in portion control. This is especially helpful for calorie-dense foods such as nuts, trail mix, peanut butter, hummus, and cheese.
Finally, while cookies, candy, and chips provide immediate energy, the refined carbs will leave you crashing shortly after. Instead, pair a fiber-rich carbohydrate with a lean protein and/or heart healthy fat. This power combo will keep you energized and satisfied until your next meal.
Here are some examples:
- Banana + Peanut Butter
- Apple + Almond Butter
- Whole Grain Crackers + String Cheese
- Whole wheat pita + turkey slices
- Baby Carrots + Hummus
- Berries + Greek yogurt
- Pineapple + cottage cheese
- A handful of almonds, cashews or your favorite nuts
- A bar made from whole foods ingredients (i.e. oats, grains, nuts, dried fruit)