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Snacking is considering consuming food or beverages at any time between regular meals. While snacking has developed a bad image, healthy snacks can be an essential part of a person’s overall diet. They can provide energy in the middle of the day or after a workout to refuel the body. A healthy snack between meals can also decrease hunger and keep people from overeating at mealtime. Learning how to recognize food and drinks with no nutritional value can help people make healthier snack food choices.
What Makes a Healthy Snack?
A snack should be a mini-meal—just a little something to hold someone over until the next meal. When snacking, avoid eating empty calories, foods, or drinks that primarily provide calories and no nutritional benefits. Empty calories items are composed primarily of high sugar, fat, oil, or alcohol-containing beverages.
If a person is unsure whether a snack is healthy, they should read the nutritional facts on the label. Pay attention to the portion size given on the label. When choosing a healthy snack, people should not decide solely on the calorie count. Look on the nutrition label to avoid foods high in added sugar and fat. Also, avoid snacks that list sugar and fat as their first few ingredients.
Keys to Healthy Snacking
Going too long without food (two to three hours) slows down the metabolism. A snack should be between 100 and 250 calories. As to whether snacking is recommended, that varies from person to person. Some people’s bodies work best when they eat small, frequent, snack-like meals to keep them going throughout the day, while others do just fine with three square meals a day.
Remember, a snack is a mini-meal, and the snack should be the right size, a good balance between enough calories to satisfy hunger but not too many calories to promote unwanted weight gain. Snacks should be enjoyable, easy to prepare, filling, and nutritious. Foods high in fiber, which contain carbohydrates for quick fuel, or protein are good choices. Make it a habit to check the label, when possible, to get a better sense of the ingredients in the foods. Pick foods that are low in added fat and sugar and high in fiber and water.
Below are five healthy snack options that are under 200 calories:
- 2 cups of plain popcorn
- ¼ cup of almonds or nuts
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- A handful of oven-baked chips
- 1 medium banana