Snacking: for those with weight loss, healthy eating and wellness goals, it can be a horrible habit that's hard to kick.
Or, it can be a smart strategy that helps you reach your goals. It simply all depends on your choices and your mindset.
Keri Gans, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet, says for most people, when it comes to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet the biggest problem with snacking is a poor understanding of portion sizes.
"Most people have no idea what a correct portion size is and sometimes their 'snack' becomes another 'meal'," she said.
For smart snaking and portion control, Gans recommends keeping all snacks in the range of 200 calories or less.
And in celebration of National Almond Day (February 16), she collaborated with California Almonds to offer the following additional tips for healthy and mindful snacking.
- Create a "snack schedule" that identifies one or two times designated for a snack each day.
- Always be prepared by making sure you have pre-portioned snacks on hand.
- Don't eat out of bags or containers. Always measure out the portion for your snack before you eat it.
- Listen to your hunger cues. Gans admits that this isn't always easy, but suggests that you ask yourself whether or not you're really hungry each time before you snack. This will help you to avoid eating out of boredom or stress.
Gans suggests always keeping a handful of almonds on hand for a mid-morning snack. "In a recent study, eating 1 to 1.5 ounces of almonds as a mid-morning snack made women feel fuller and helped them eat fewer calories throughout the day as a result," she explained. "While the study just looked at the impact on one day’s meals in 32 women, it suggests almonds can be a smart snack option for those watching their weight."
In addition to almonds, Gans offers the following smart "snack swaps" that can help turn a horrible habit into a satisfying healthy eating strategy.
Swap flavored yogurt for plain, low-fat yogurt.
Instead of flavored yogurts, which are often filled with added-sugar, Gans recommends opting for plain, low-fat yogurt. Add fresh fruit, homemade granola, slivered almonds or powdered chocolate to sweeten it up and add texture. "Whatever will help satisfy your cravings without over doing it," Gans said.
Swap store-bought trail mix for homemade.
Trail mix is a smart snack choice because with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits it can offer a nutritious balance of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. However, many store-bought trail mix brands contain added sugar. Gans recommends making your own mix at home to avoid extra sugar. "Combine almonds, your favorite dried fruit, and a high fiber cereal," she said. Making your mix at home also gives you the opportunity to separate it into single-serving portions, which will help you to avoid snacking right from the bag and adding extra calories to your daily intake.