Have you ever wandered into the work break room mid-morning and raided your lunch or reached for any food because you felt famished? What about heading home and feeling hungry enough to stop and grab food, be it a bag of chips or a slice of pizza or a piece of fruit (Choose fruit? Awesome!), because you don’t think you can wait for dinner to be ready before eating something? You know that feeling. It stinks. But it can be avoided if you start to include healthy snacking into your daily habits.
Snacking can get a bad rap sometimes, especially if the snacks aren’t nutrient-dense, but think about it. Let’s say you eat lunch around noon and then dinner is close to 6 or 7 PM. That’s a whole 6+ hours between fueling your body. Or, in the morning, if you eat breakfast at 7 and lunch at 12, there’s a 5 hour gap right there. And this isn’t just your meal timing, your kids are also on a similar schedule. Including healthy snacks periodically throughout the day will help to keep energy levels up, supply essential vitamins and minerals, and can curb feelings of hunger between meals.
Think of snacks as mini-meals and when planning for them, aim for a mix of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and good fats. Try to hit two food groups in a snack, like whole-grain crackers and cheese, yogurt and fruit, cut vegetables and hummus, and keep a variety of nutritious ready-to-eat supplies on hand. You can be creative with the following snack suggestions* by switching up the types of fruits, vegetables and grains to include what you and your family have a taste for.
- Make your own trail mix by combining whole grain cereals, nuts or seeds and dried fruit. (Hint: portion into ¼ cup servings)
- Blend your own smoothie by adding 1 cup milk of choice and frozen fruit to a blender.
- Mix 3 cups air-popped popcorn with grated cheese or dried spices.
- Make a dip using low-fat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for raw vegetables.
- Mash an avocado with salsa and eat with tortilla chips or spread on a whole wheat tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, then roll it up and enjoy.
- Cut up fruit to make kebobs and serve with low-fat yogurt dip.
- Slice a medium apple and eat with 1 tablespoon of peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter.
- Mix equal amounts of low-fat plain or flavored yogurt with 100% fruit juice, then pour into paper cups and freeze.
- Top graham crackers with nut or seed butter or dunk them in low-fat vanilla yogurt.
- Cut a whole wheat pita into wedges and serve with 2 tablespoons of hummus or bean dip.
- Make a veggie pizza by topping a whole wheat English muffin or pita with 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, ½ cup diced fresh veggies, and 1 ounce mozzarella cheese.
- Prepare instant oatmeal using low-fat milk,1 tablespoon maple syrup, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and ¼ cup dried fruit.
- Dress up a salad with a hard cooked egg or edamame, tomato, and 2 tablespoons reduced-fat dressing.
- Whip up a quesadilla in the microwave using a whole wheat tortilla, ¼ cup black beans, 1-2 tablespoons cheese and 2 tablespoons of salsa.
- Build veggie skewers with cherry or grape tomatoes and cubes of cheese or cooked tortellini and lean luncheon meat.
Written by Adriene Worthington, RDN, LDN
Photo via American Heart Association
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