Snacks: Bridging the Gap

19 09 2014

When it comes to weight management, learning how to “snack smart” can be a real benefit to your lifestyle. Many people try Cathy head shotto avoid snacking to cut calories, often finding that it backfires in the end. Smart snacking can curb hunger and help you keep your healthy eating choices on track.

I have many folks tell me that they are able to eat a very healthy breakfast and lunch, but are so hungry when they get home from work that they simply can’t control what they eat. They rummage through cabinets and search the fridge, often eating the first thing they come across that might satisfy their hunger (and then proceed to continue eating until they have dinner made!). As we talk, we find that they have their lunch break at 11:30am and may not get home from work until 6:30pm. That is 7 hours between lunch and dinner! And to add insult to injury, some go to the gym right after work, expecting to get a good workout without fueling up. No wonder they are starving when they get home!

As you can imagine, the feeling of extreme hunger can override our common sense and sabotage our otherwise sensible choices. Since most people commonly get hungry every four hours or so, it is a wise idea to plan, rather than avoid, a snack. Planning a healthy snack when there will be an extended period of time between meals can help keep hunger in check and keep us mentally focused on making healthy food choices.

What should snacks look like?

Remember snacks are simply a bridge to your next meal. They are not meant to make you full. They are meant to give you just enough fuel until you can eat a sensible and complete meal. Snacks should fill nutrient “gaps” in your diet. If you are lacking a fruit, veggie or dairy serving for the day, make them part of your snack. Keeps snacks around 200 calories or less, and plan for them. If there is a time of day when you know you are always hungry (think that 3 o’clock slump!), plan a snack to get you through. Remember there is a difference between “snacks” and “treats”. Snacks should provide nutrients that are good fuel for your body, not empty calories (think a banana with peanut butter vs Oreos).

What are good snack ideas?

Take a look at what is missing in your diet and start there. I recommend choosing snacks that are good sources of fiber and protein that can help keep you satisfied until your next meal, such as:

  • Apple or banana with peanut butter
  • Whole grain crackers with cheddar cheese
  • ½ turkey sandwich on whole wheat
  • Whole wheat pancake with almond butter
  • Handful of nuts
  • Greek yogurt with berries or granola
  • Whole grain cereal with milk
  • Cottage cheese with fruit

Here are some great snack ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Smart_Snacking_for_Adults_and Teens Rev 2012

Thinking about using a “protein bar” or granola bar for a snack? These are often high in calories, sugar and fats….essentially glorified candy bars. For some really great tips on finding the “bar” that’s right for you, check out this article from Sparkpeople by Becky Hand, RD, LD:

Want to make your own granola bars?

What great snack will you include today?




One response

30 09 2014

Great idea! Thanks for sharing.

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