Grabbing a fast prepackaged snack seems like such a good idea when we are hungry. Then there is the guilt when we realize that half the chips are gone or that pack of cookies is like a rock in our stomach. Just like with meals, planning your snacks ahead of time can be huge help. You can meet some of your nutritional needs, satisfy that craving for sweet, salty, crunchy or creamy and prevent the “hangry” feeling from taking over. Even better there are some convenience items that make great snacks when enjoyed in moderation.
What should you look for in a snack? First off I am big on ingredients – fewer ingredients mean fewer useless additives. The next thing to consider: will the snack satisfy your hunger and keep you somewhat full? Finally, are you actually hungry or just bored or maybe actually thirsty?
Fiber is great at making you feel full and is important to healthy digestion, so look for snacks that are a good source of fiber (at least 5 grams). Air popped popcorn is an example of a great source of fiber – you can pop a bunch at once and keep it in a large canister or zipper bag to snack on whenever. Three cups of popcorn equals one grain serving and contains 93 calories (if air popped). The same amount of popcorn popped in oil is 165 calories, so still not going to blow your diet if you chose to go that route. Sprinkle Nutritional Yeast over your popcorn to add protein and it’s also a great source of vitamin B12. Nutritional yeast is different from regular yeast and adds a flavor similar to parmesan cheese, a little salty and a little cheesy. A whole quarter cup is considered a serving and contains 60 calories.
If you are looking for something a little sweeter how about an apple and a piece of low fat string cheese or Greek yogurt with berries stirred in. Ricotta with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon makes a great fruit dip for pear slices. Do you see the trend of combining a good fiber source with a low fat protein source? This is what makes for a filling snack that feeds your muscles, not your fat cells.
A favorite snack in my household is edamame (boiled soybeans). You can find these in the freezer section and my kids love popping the shells open and enjoying the soybeans inside. One cup provides 17 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. You can enjoy them plain or with a bit of sea salt.
Of course there are plenty of premade snacks to choose from. Look for calorie content, protein and fiber when choosing a snack bar. To be considered a snack you should keep it at or under 200 calories depending on your daily calorie needs. There are several great snack choices on our website and keeping snacks that have good shelf life stashed in your gym bag, purse, car and desk drawer can be very helpful in avoiding those weak moments when you just want to eat anything you can get your hands on.
Sometimes when we are bored or even thirsty we go looking for something to eat. Drinking a glass of water does not always cut it in those situations. A couple things you can try. Make yourself a cup of tea – I like chai tea because it covers that craving for something sweet without a bunch of calories. When I brew coffee in the morning, I often brew extra. I put an extra cup of coffee in the refrigerator and when I start hunting for a snack I pull that coffee out and put it in a shaker cup with ice and a scoop of Fit Miss Vanilla Chai protein. It makes a nice coffee house style drink with only 90 calories. You can also put that in the blender if you prefer a frappe style coffee.
You know you are going to get hungry. Plan ahead and keep those snacks handy.