A snack is a portion of food, smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals.
To some, snacking means eating when you’re not hungry. To others, the question “Do you eat snacks?” is heard as “Do you eat snack foods?”—which may explain why they get defensive. It sounds as if you are accusing them of loading up on unhealthy snack foods like chips, cookies and candy.
The average calorie intake during a meal is about 500 kilocalories leaving a range of 300-800 kilocalories for snacks between meals. Overdoing this daily allowance can cause weight gain no matter whether the snack is healthy or unhealthy.
Snacking on foods that are low in energy density, high in nutrient density, and follow the five characteristics of healthy snacking increase satiation and satiety. Sustaining a high level of satiation and satiety helps keep one within the caloric discretionary allowance, and helps one maintain a healthy body weight.
When Is the Snacking Habit Not Healthy?
- You’re eating unhealthy, high calorie foods like sweets, chips, and sodas. Not only can these high calorie snack foods contribute to weight gain, they offer little, if any, nutritional value.
- You’re eating for reasons other than hunger. Snacking wisely means that you choose healthy foods to eat between meals to help control your appetite and meet your nutritional needs. But if you tend to snack when you’re not hungry (maybe you’re bored, stressed, angry or tired), it’s a habit you might want to think about breaking.
Replace snacks with Nuts. Get rid of the sugary, processed snacks and keep nuts in your pantry instead. They have been proven to help with weight loss and reduce the risk of diabetes. They are also a great snack because they are full of protein, fiber, minerals, and good fats. Buy raw or lightly toasted unsalted nuts. Avoid nuts that are fried or cooked in oils. The best are almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans. Stick with one or two handfuls for a snack once or twice a day. But be careful, nuts have a tendency to raise blood sugar if you binge on them. Remember a serving is 10 to 12 nuts or a good handful.
Top tips for healthy snacking
- Watch the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugars in your snacks, as well as calorie content – look at the labels, for more information about reading food labels.
- Replace snacks high in saturated fat, salt and/or sugars: like confectionary and biscuits, with healthier snacks, like unsalted nuts and plain popcorn.
- Portion control – to help maintain a healthy, balanced diet, consider the portion size of your snack (particularly if it is high in fat, saturated fat, salt and/or sugars).
- Listen to hunger cues – before you reach for that biscuit on offer during a work meeting or try to break up the boredom or cheer yourself up by eating a snack, consider whether you are actual hungry. Although the research is limited, it has been suggested that listening carefully to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
- Number of snacks – keep an eye on the number of snacks you are eating during the day. If you are snacking several times a day, think about the meals you are eating and when. Aim for three regular meals per day.
- Plan ahead – if you tend to need a mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon snack to satisfy your hunger until the next meal then planning ahead may help you to make sure these snacks are healthy and that overall your diet is nicely balanced.
- Avoid shopping when hungry – there is some research suggesting that if you are hungry, you may be more likely to select less healthy snacks . You could also make a list of healthy snacks to buy to help your choices when you are in the store.
Healthy Snack Ideas
- Protein powder and fruit.
- Protein vegan gluten-free snack bars.
- Yogurt topped with fruit.
- Raw veggies – carrots, cherry tomatoes, peppers dipped in hummus
- Smoothies or juices
- Gluten-free crackers with Vegan Cheese.
- Small handful of nuts – almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans or soy nuts.
Check my article Raw Vegan Healthy Snacks.
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