~ By Laura Brieser-Smith, Registered dietitian, certified personal trainer ~
It happens to all of us at one time or another–the urge to eat something between meals. Often times we think of snacking as a negative thing, providing us with unneeded calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. However, snacks can be a good thing–if we eat them responsibly and make the right choices.
Small portions of food spread throughout the day provide a person’s body with the energy needed for daily tasks. People who are trying to lose weight find they are more successful if they have small snacks between meals to keep them feeling full and satisfied longer and curb overeating at meals. Because most people need fewer calories as they age, eating smaller meals and snacks during the day can help to maintain a healthy body weight. For the very elderly, snacks can provide additional nutrients that are not consumed at meals.
Not all snack foods are created equal. Use these tips to plan healthy snacks:
- Choose foods that are nutrient dense, meaning that they are a good source of one or more of the major nutrients needed to maintain a healthy body. Nutrient dense snack choices include high fiber whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean meats, and low fat dairy products. Minimize excess amounts of fat, sodium, and cholesterol by choosing snack foods with a Daily Value of 5% or less for those nutrients.
- Plan your snacking, rather than simply “grazing” your way throughout the day. Snacks should be eaten at regular times. Plan to have no more than three snacks per day.
- Eat from hunger, not habit. Make sure you are truly hungry and not just in the habit of having something to eat at a certain time of the day, in a certain location, or while engaging in a specific activity. Also, watch for emotional responses that may trigger snacking, such as boredom or stress.
- Keep portions small. Try to limit the calorie content of snacks to less than 250 calories per snack. Try not to snack out of the large box or container. Instead portion out the appropriate amount and then put the rest away.
- Make healthy snacks accessible. One reason higher fat snacks are so appealing is that they are readily available and require little preparation. Stock your refrigerator and pantry shelves with quick and easy options. Bring healthy alternatives with you to avoid the vending machine trap.
Laura Brieser-Smith, MPH, RD, CHFS is the owner of Healthy Designs, LLC which provides nutrition counseling and personal training to clients in their homes or offices. She can be reached at 303-635-1131 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.