A Snack or Two a Day Keeps the Sugar Cravings Away
By Alexis Newman, RD, LDN, Virtua Registered Dietitian
Snacking often gets a bad rap. Some people try to ignore cravings, choosing instead to focus on larger balanced meals. But the truth is, when your body tells you that you need to eat, you should listen. Healthy snacking is a normal part of a balanced routine—but there is a right way to do it.
Whether you need something extra mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or at bedtime (or all three), here are some great ideas to keep your health goals on track.
A Snack is a “Mini-Meal”
You might just be looking for a small satisfying nosh, but you should still balance your calorie intake. To fulfill your snacking need, consider these options to ensure you get either protein or fat in proper balance with fiber, while also including multiple food groups:
- Apple slices (carbs and fiber) balanced with peanut butter or almond butter (protein and fat)
- Grapes (carbs and fiber) and cheese such as portion-controlled Laughing Cow or Babybel cheeses (protein and fat)
- A handful of dried fruit (carbs and fiber) balanced with nuts (protein and fat)
- Homemade trail mix with your favorite seeds, fruits, and nuts, or a healthy option from the grocery-store shelf (just avoid mixes with chocolate or other sugary additives)
- Carrots (carbs and fiber) and hummus (protein)
- Roasted chicken or turkey slices rolled with cheese
You can find 100-calorie nut packs at most grocery and convenience stores, as well as single-serve packs of pre-cut veggies, hummus and peanut butter dips. Or, prepare your own snacks with portion-control plastic baggies or containers.
Not All Snacks are Created Equal
Some snacks are convenient but should be approached with caution due to added sugar and super-sized servings.
- Granola bars: Granola bars are an easy grab-and-go snack, but try to stick to brands with at least 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber with minimal added sugar (added sugar should be as much or less than the amount of protein in the granola bar). LARA and KIND bars often are low in added sugar. It’s most important to read the label to see what you’re getting.
- Yogurt: Yogurts and pre-made yogurt parfaits often contain too much added sugar. Look for brands with 10-12 grams or less of added sugar per 1 cup of yogurt. Or, try plain Greek yogurt with one of the following: a teaspoon of honey with frozen berries; a few drops of liquid stevia, vanilla extract and cinnamon; or, a teaspoon of no-added-sugar preservatives.
- Smoothies: You may think smoothies offer you a hearty dose of all-things-good-for-you. But, typical smoothies contain up to 4 servings of fruit and just a small serving of veggies. In addition, smoothies can cause spikes in blood sugar, leaving you crashing and craving sweets later on. If you want to make your own, include 1 or 2 servings of fruit and full-fat yogurt, or even a tablespoon or two of peanut butter powder or protein powder.
Updated February 20, 2017