Everyone loves a good snack. But what defines "good"?
If your stomach starts rumbling and lunch is still two hours away, you're going to need a snack to make it through the day. What you reach for at snack time can make a big difference in your energy level, weight, and overall health. Choose the wrong snack, and you'll feel dragged down and even more tired. Choose wisely, and you'll get the boost you need.
Before your next snack break, think twice about what you are about to eat and remember the following information when you're craving a snack!
Snacking for Energy
If you find yourself fighting sleepiness in the afternoon, what your body needs is a boost of energy. Snacks eaten midday should contain good fats and protein to give and sustain your energy level.
Here are a few good options when you need an energy-boosting snack:
> A small apple or sliced banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter. The natural sugars in fruit take longer to metabolize than sugars found in candy, and the peanut butter provides the protein needed for long-lasting energy.
> A quarter cup of nuts and dried fruit. This slow-burning mixture provides protein, good fats (that's right - fats aren't always bad), and plenty of fiber, all wrapped up in a delicious package. Just be careful. Eating too many of these carbohydrates can cause low blood sugar and make you feel even sleepier.
> One tablespoon of hummus spread on four whole-grain crackers. Made from garbanzo beans, hummus is a great energy booster and is also full of fiber. And the whole-grain crackers are made with complex carbohydrates, which help fill you up without dragging you down.
Snacking for Weight Management
Many people eliminate snacks when attempting to lose weight. Unfortunately, this is counterproductive, as snacks keep you satisfied between meals. If dinnertime arrives and you're exceptionally hungry, it's easy to overeat. Eating several small snacks throughout the day will help keep your hunger in check. However, you should avoid eating snacks when you're bored, stressed, zoning out in front of the TV, or not paying attention to what you're eating while studying for your next exam.
The key is to choose snacks that fit with your daily calorie and nutrient needs. If your goal is to lose weight, choose low-calorie, nutrient-filled snacks. If you need to gain weight or if you are physically fit and need to replenish energy from a strenuous workout, go for higher calorie, nutritious snacks.
Low-carb snack ideas include vegetables, reduced-fat yogurt and cottage cheese, half of an avocado, and a few deli slices.
Snacks for Healthy Living
What you eat for snacks can help you meet recommended guidelines for the amount of fruits, vegetables, calcium, protein, and whole grains your body needs to stay healthy. Keeping a variety of yummy, ready-to-eat nutritious snacks available for you and your family is important. After all, when healthy food is easily accessible, you won't be tempted to stop at the vending machine or the nearest fast food chain.
In addition to choosing the right foods, include plenty of variety. If you eat too many carbohydrates for breakfast, snack on some protein. If you're eating a steak for dinner, munch on some sliced fruit for an afternoon fill up.
Snacks full of goodness for your body include egg salad for protein, a cheese stick for extra calcium, baby carrots for a serving of veggies, canned tuna, or a handful of almonds.