In the nutrition community, “snacking” used to be a dirty word: a bad habit that many clients needed to break. Today, the jury is still out on whether eating many smaller meals a day is better or worse than eating three larger ones. However, as with most nutrition “rules,” what you eat is more important than when you eat.
When in doubt, read the nutrition label and look for foods that give you good nutritional balance. Aim for more foods that are high in protein and fiber and fewer foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar. And always look for the apple logo indicating The Right Choice… for a Healthier You® option.
Full Speed Ahead: eat these snacks without guilt!
- Reduced fat cheese provides an important protein boost, as well as calcium and often vitamin D.
- Hummus (bean dip) with veggies like carrots and peppers contains fiber and protein, and the veggies provide beta-carotene.
- Berries contain health-boosting anti-oxidants along with a burst of energy from natural sugars.
- Nonfat Greek yogurt packs a protein punch and helps your gut with healthy probiotics.
- Nonfat cottage cheese is low in calories but high in protein and calcium.
Proceed with Caution: these snacks are fine in moderation, but don’t overdo it.
- Nuts have a high fat content, but it’s “good fat,” and the protein gives a good boost to get you through the day. Look for nuts (like pistachios) that are still in the shell ; this will help prevent mindless eating.
- Dried fruit can be a delicious alternative to candy, but it can still contain more sugar than you want to consume during the day. Make sure to check the sugar content on the nutrition label, as all dried fruits are not created equal!
- Popcorn is a whole grain, making it better for you than snacks made with refined white flour. Some snack popcorns are also low-fat and low-salt, making them a relatively healthy snack. However, make sure to watch your portion control, and check the label to make sure that the fat and salt levels aren’t too high.
Roadblock: avoid these snacks when possible.
- Potato and corn chips usually get their delicious addictiveness from the fat and salt they contain. If you must indulge, look for baked varieties and those with reduced sodium. The intrinsic portion control from vending machine snack bags can help you enjoy these treats in moderation.
- Sugary candy offers no nutritional benefits: just a quick burst of energy followed by a sugar crash. Dark chocolate can give you that sugar with some additional anti-oxidants to books your health.