Snacks can be an important addition to your diet whether you are an athlete needing to refuel after a run, a busy parent trying to feed kids or a working professional without enough time in the day. Snacks can provide you with carbohydrates and healthy fats for energy, while also adding a variety of extra nutrients into your daily diet. Unfortunately, not all snacks are created equally. Many of the snack foods available today are loaded with excess sugar, fat and salt – and while these processed snacks are engineered to please the taste buds, that is about all the good they do. In fact, processed snacks such as cookies, fruit snacks and chips may do more harm than good, adding excess calories and increasing cravings. While these less healthful snacks are fine in moderation, most snacks you consume should help improve the nutritional quality of your diet.
So, what makes a snack healthy? A healthy snack should contain some combination of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat), increase the variety of micronutrients in your diet, and provide extra fiber. Here are some examples:
- Almonds + Strawberries
- Trail Mix (try dried cranberries + pistachios + pecans)
- Banana + Peanut Butter
- Baby Carrots + Pretzels + Hummus
- Canned Tuna + Whole Grain Crackers
- Roasted Chickpeas
- Store-Bought Bars (Larabar, KIND bar)
- Greek Yogurt + Berries
- Veggies + Guacamole
In addition to considering the nutritional quality of your snacks, it is also important to consider the timing of snacks. First, snacks can be very helpful around exercise. If you ate lunch several hours before a hike, a snack an hour before hiking can provide you with much needed fuel. Likewise, if you finish lifting weights a couple of hours before dinner time, a snack can help replenish your muscles while preventing you from being ravenous come dinner time. Even if you aren’t exercising, it is important to pay attention to timing of snacks as it relates to your hunger levels. A snack once you get home from work might be just what you need to keep your hunger in check until dinner, allowing you to make healthier choices and avoid overeating at meal time.
By checking snacks to make sure they contain a combination of micro- and macronutrients and paying attention to timing, you will be well on your way to healthier snacking.
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