To Snack or Not to Snack?
By Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, CSSD, ACSM-CPT
PHYSICAL HEALTH FOR WIDOWS
Do you ever wonder if snacking is a good thing or a bad thing? It depends! I consider snacks prevention: They prevent you from becoming ravenously hungry by providing a bridge between meals. When we are hungry we tend to make bad choices — choose the wrong foods, eat too quickly, or end up eating too much.
When many people hear the word “snack,” they think chips or chocolate. But snacks can be nutritious, filling, and delicious! I encourage you to think about what you need in the moment. Are you truly physiologically hungry? If so, eat “real food” snacks. If you are just feeling like you want to munch, then eat something that satisfies the craving, but watch the portion. Snacks should typically be 100-250 calories depending on how long you want it to last and your overall energy expenditure for the day.
Snacks can also take the place of a meal when we might be overwhelmed with emotion or don’t feel up to cooking. When we’re going through the grieving process our appetite can be all over the place. Maybe you lost your appetite and can’t face eating breakfast or cooking dinner. Instead of sitting down to a lot of food all at one time, you can snack your way through the morning or have a few snacks spread out in the evening.
How many snacks do you need in a day? Again, it depends! In general, you can follow these guidelines:
If you aren’t eating breakfast within an hour of getting up, have a snack. I always snack on a piece of fruit or a few handfuls of dry cereal right when I get up, before I exercise.
If you go more than 3-4 hours between meals, have a snack in between to bridge your hunger.
If you are up for more than 3 hours after dinner, have a snack before bed.
Here are some of my favorite snacks to fill and satisfy between meals:
Veggie- or bean-based soup: Soup is a hot, low-calorie, and filling snack with a variety of health benefits. Eating a veggie- or bean-based soup can provide a full serving of vegetables and can help to keep you full longer, which also helps with weight management.
Cheese and whole grain crackers: A classic combination that contains protein with good-for-you carbohydrates, both of which help to keep you satisfied for the long haul. Easy to pack and easy to portion, this is a great snack when you are on the go!
Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is one of my go-to snacks, with the twice the protein of regular yogurt. It adds calcium and vitamin D to your nutritional intake, which is good for bones and teeth. Yogurt is also a good source of probiotics to help your gut microbiome and immune system.
One ounce of nuts: Talk about a snack high in protein, unsaturated fat, antioxidants, and vitamins! Nuts are great on their own, or as a topper for salads. One ounce of almonds (23 nuts) or pistachios (49 nuts) is approximately 160 calories.
Banana: A good source of potassium, and I believe that everyone should eat a banana every single day. The fact that bananas are easy to digest, convenient, and nutrient-dense makes them an excellent snack when you’re on the go, or post-exercise.
Eggs: Whether you just grab a hard-boiled egg, or cook one up in a skillet or a mug (yes, you can make eggs in a mug in the microwave!), eggs are high-quality protein that can satisfy.
Berries and grapes: Fruits are one of the best snacks out there as a low-calorie option that also provides antioxidants and fiber. Berries and grapes are naturally snack-sized and finger-friendly, so you can portion them out and take them with you to keep you prepared for when that afternoon hunger craving hits.
Energy bars: Consider replacing your favorite candy bar with an energy or granola bar to boost your protein and fiber while avoiding a sugar trap. Be sure to look for bars with at least 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.
Half a sandwich: Sandwiches can be a quick and easy way to keep hunger at bay while adding some good protein and hearty grains to your day. Have half a turkey or peanut butter sandwich to give you that perfect balance of carbohydrates and protein.
Popcorn: Popcorn is considered a whole grain and is a great snack item because you get a lot of volume plus some fiber to keep you satisfied. One serving is equal to about 3 cups of popcorn. Plus, it’s only about 100 calories.
Edamame: A super and convenient way to enjoy a high-protein snack. High in antioxidants and fiber, you can’t go wrong with edamame as a snack. Try it fresh or dried!
Smoothie: Fruit smoothies are a great idea for an easy, fast meal replacement loaded with vitamins and fiber. Add a scoop of protein powder to help keep you satisfied a little longer!
Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer, and fellow Wister. You can find her at dietdiva.net.