How Important are your Snacks?
Are you completely ravenous by the time noon rolls around? Or maybe you’re famished by dinnertime and feel like you could probably eat just about anything… and tons of it. This is completely normal, and it all comes down to physiology. Your body is talking to you!
Enter: the power of the snack.
A well-rounded snack, combining both protein and carbohydrate, is crucial to your dietary (and mental!) success throughout the day. They help to normalize your blood sugar and help to tame those nagging hunger pangs during in-between-meal hours. Why is this necessary? Because our blood sugar dips between 3 and 5 hours after consuming a meal, and glucose (stored as glycogen) is usually depleted by six hours. Glucose is the body’s primary source of energy. So, if we eat breakfast around 7 a.m., and wait until 1 p.m. for lunch, we have gone six hours without food, and are most likely very hungry (maybe even hangry) and unfocused. This is when the body starts to try to compensate for the lack of glucose.
The body is phenomenal because it is naturally equipped to protect us during times of hunger and starvation. When it senses food is scarce, the metabolism will begin to slow down to conserve energy. But we do not want our bodies to waste that precious energy when we aren’t actually starving! Especially because a slowed metabolism can lead to weight gain in the long run.
When we are eating healthy snacks throughout the day, we keep the metabolism revved up, our blood sugar levels normal and our hunger in check. Plus, well-planned healthy snacks can aid in weight loss because we are less likely to shove an entire box of crackers (or Girls Scout cookies) down our throat as soon as we get home from work or overeat at mealtime when we’re in that crazy-hungry state.
In order to master the art of healthy snacking, we must make sure we are nourishing our minds and bodies with energizing snacks. While cookies and candy bars give us an instant boost of energy, we also quickly come crashing back down, and are left even more tired and often even hungrier or craving another energy boost!
The first important component for a healthy, well-planned snack is the carbohydrate for energy. Reach for whole grains, fruits and veggies for the carbohydrate part of your snack. Then, combine a protein with your carb for greater satiety and muscle repair.
Here are some easy examples of healthy and convenient snack ideas to get you started at home or to pack for when you’re on the go:
Sliced banana in yogurt | Apple slices with almond butter | Whole-wheat toast topped with peanut butter | Carrots dipped in hummus | Cottage cheese with berries on top | Granola and yogurt | Half of a baked sweet potato topped with cottage cheese | Whole grain cereal with milk | Almonds and cranberries trail mix | Corn tortilla topped with half an avocado and a dab of salsa
And when you have a few extra minutes to take your snacking to the next level, try these healthy and delicious treats developed by our team of registered dietitians!
- 1 cup fruit (fresh or frozen) -- We recommend berries, mango, grapes, and/or banana!
- 1 cup low-fat, plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup raw greens (we prefer spinach or kale)
- 1 cup liquid (milk, soy milk, 100% juice, or water)
- Optional: 1 Tbs nuts/seeds
- Layer ingredients in blender: First the liquid, then yogurt, then fruits (and optional nuts), then greens.
- Blend until smooth!
- 1 cup black beans
- 1 cup diced mango
- 1 cup diced avocado
- 3 Tbs diced bell pepper
- 3Tbs finely chopped cilantro
- 2 Tbs lime juice
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Prepare ingredients and combine in a bowl.
- Enjoy with pita bread, tortilla or pita chips, or raw veggie scoops like pepper slices or celery.
- Refrigerate leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.