In certain situations, snacking can easily become a destructive habit that throws your healthy eating goals and intentions off track.
Donuts served during a morning meeting, endless appetizer baskets filled with tortillas chips and late-night, sweet-tooth-satisfying bowls of ice cream are all examples of snacks that don’t offer much nutritional value. And they pop up pretty frequently, which perhaps is why “snacking” sometimes gets a bad rap.
That's only one side of the story, though. Because snacking can certainly be healthy. It’s simply a matter of being smart and strategic about your choices and timing.
“The keys to a healthy and satisfying snack are protein and fiber,” explains Jo Bartell, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., head of coaching at Rise, an app that pairs users with personal nutrition coaches for healthy eating guidance and advice. “Both of these work to keep you feeling satisfied between meals so you’ll feel less inclined to graze throughout the day and less starving come your next real meal, which can lead to overeating.”
Bartell also mentioned that incorporating small snacks between meals is an easy way to add more nutrients to your diet by “sneaking in” different healthy foods that you might otherwise miss out on.
“As a general rule, snacks should be 150 to 250 calories,” Bartell added. And she suggests choosing foods and food combos that have less than 12 grams of fat, three or more grams of fiber and five or more grams of protein.
To help give you an idea of what fits this criteria, Bartell offered the following healthy snack ideas.
Cottage Cheese & Berries
Bartell suggests pairing 1/2 cup cottage cheese with 1/2 cup berries, like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and/or raspberries. “Cottage cheese is a super underrated food that is both versatile and jam-packed with protein,” she said. “For a sweet snack, it goes well with high-fiber and antioxidant-rich berries.”
Hummus & Veggie Sticks
Made with chickpeas and tahini and olive oil, Bartell said hummus offers plant-based protein and heart-healthy fats, both of which digest slowly to help keep you feeling satisfied. “Think out of the box with colorful veggie dippers,” she added. “More variety and color in the veggies means more beneficial vitamins and minerals.” Bartell suggests carrots, radish, jicama, celery, bell pepper, broccoli or endive leaves as nutritious “dipper” options. Measure out three tablespoons of hummus for a healthy snack serving size.
A Simple (And Tasty) Way to Boost Your Mid-Day Energy
The Science Behind What Your Body Really Needs to Lose Weight
5 Smart Nutrition Strategies that can Help Take your Fitness Goals to the Next Level