That statement could not be more fitting for me. I eat very often, but usually in small-ish quantities. I’m not saying that’s the “right” or “wrong” way to do it; that’s simply what I prefer to do. I would have rather have several small meals and snacks throughout the day than three large meals and no snacks. There is not one universal eating pattern that is perfect for everyone. Different things work for different people – it’s all about choosing what works for you and your lifestyle. And let’s be real, many of us eat differently every day! Life happens and sometimes that means that you may not have time for a mid-morning snack, or God forbid, not have time for a meal! (I usually don’t allow that to happen.) 😉 Hey, a girl’s gotta eat.
These days we are all so “busy” that even sitting down to eat a meal can seem like a chore sometimes. This is likely one of the main reasons why frequent snacking has become so common. An article from the USDA on “Snacking Patterns in the U.S.” from 2011 states that “over the last 30 years, the average number of snacks consumed per day doubled, and the percentage of adults snacking on any given day rose from 59% to 90%.”
Another fun fact from the article: “Snacks provide on average about one-fourth (24%) of daily calories, greater proportions of alcohol, carbohydrates, and total sugars, and lesser proportions of most other nutrients.”
With that being said, it makes sense that “snacking” has somewhat of a negative connotation, because many people don’t just snack – they graze. Grazing is mindless eating that occurs when you may not even be hungry, on whatever foods are easily accessible, and might also be known as “junk food”. Is anyone reading this guilty of grazing late at night? You know you should go to bed, but you just want to take a couple bites of 7 different things in the pantry or refrigerator? Trust me, we’ve all been there.
First, listen to your body’s hunger cues and decide if you really are hungry. Snacking between meals is perfectly fine (and a much better alternative than starving yourself until your next meal), but use it as an opportunity to make healthy choices. I mentioned this in “Taste the Rainbow”; snacks are a great time to catch a serving of fruits or veggies if you skipped out on those at your meals throughout the day. Snacking right can require some thinking ahead, especially if you’re heading out all day for work, school, or other activities where you may be tempted to drive through a fast-food place or stop by a vending machine for a quick bite to eat.
The best advice I can give you would be to PLAN out your snack(s) the night before! You are less likely to pack them in the morning because you’ll either be too rushed or completely forget about it. Portion snacks out in Zip lock bags or Tupperware and leave them on the counter (or in the refrigerator if needed). Just put them somewhere you’ll remember to take them with you. Then when you get that mid-morning or mid-afternoon hunger pain, you’re fully prepared with some healthy grub.
I have compiled a list of possible healthy snacks that you can work into your day if and when you get hungry between meals or at night! This list is not all-inclusive; if you already have some easy, nutritious snack options that you love, that’s awesome! Stick with them! But don’t be afraid to try new things, too. And share your yummy ideas in the comments to help others, including me. 🙂 Here we go.
- Piece of fruit // mixed fruit cup (can be prepared at home or from store/gas station)
- Raw veggies with 1 tbsp fat-free/light ranch
- 12 baby carrots and 2 tbsp. hummus (I like red pepper flavor!)
- 12 baby carrots and 1 wedge Garlic & Herb Laughing Cow cheese (35 calories each)
- Banana/apple and 1 tbsp of nut butter or 2 tbsp PB2
- Celery and peanut butter
- Orange or 2 Cuties
- Mixed nuts (~1/4 cup; portion this out so you don’t overeat!)
- Grapes/strawberries/blueberries (fruit of choice) and Greek yogurt (I like using some cereal as granola! The pic on the left is some dark chocolate granola that came in one of my graze boxes! Made this more of a dessert. 🙂 )
- Sugar-free pudding (I love Jello Sugar-Free Dulce de Luche and Chocolate Vanilla Swirl – 60 calories each!)
- Graze snacks – portion control made easy!! I usually even cut the servings in half to make them last longer and save even more calories, especially with the “flapjacks” (granola bars) and granola yogurt toppers.
- Hard boiled eggs/egg whites
- Steamed edamame or dry roasted edamame with goji berries
- Granola bars: choose wisely! Go for bars that have protein and fiber and around <10g of sugar. Special K, Kashi, Kind, Quest, Luna, and Larabar have some good options. As always, read labels to scope out your best choices! Hy-Vee’s NuVal system can be a helpful guide when comparing brands.
- Low-fat string cheese wrapped in turkey slices
- Low-fat string cheese and/or turkey + 8 whole grain crackers
- Homemade clean muffins or banana bread (both recipes can be found in WFTW Cook Book!)
- Trail mix (same rule as nuts – portion it out so you don’t go overboard! And stick to mixes that mostly consist of mixed nuts/dried fruit – not 50% M&Ms!) My favorite trail mix contains walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds and dried cranberries!
- Energy bites (limit to 1-2!)
- Fruit smoothie (mixed frozen fruit + Greek yogurt + low fat/almond milk)
- Plain air-popped popcorn (this is a great low-calorie, whole grain option!) without butter/sugar.
- Save some time and effort by purchasing Skinny Pop or Boom Chicka Pop (39 ish calories per cup!)
- Avocado toast (I see variations of this all over Instagram and they all look ahhhh-mazing, like this one. Use pepper & various spices to make it extra tasty!)
- Roasted chickpeas (there are so many awesome recipes for these on Pinterest – planning to try some and share my results soon! 🙂 )
- Cup of skim milk
- Granny Smith apple slices, sprinkled with a packet of Splenda, cinnamon, and a few spritzes of spray butter. Voila – healthy apple pie! Such a delicious and satisfying late night snack.
- Peanut butter banana “ice cream”: 1 frozen peeled banana, 1 heaping tbsp of PB2, ~1/3 ish cup of almond milk. Mix up in your blender and enjoy! (Add liquid gradually until desired consistency is reached.)
- 1 large rice cake with drizzle of honey and banana slices
- Toasted whole wheat English muffin topped with 1 slice of ultra-thin mozzarella cheese and 1 tomato slice
Note: the “on-the-go” and “at-home” snacks can be interchangeable depending on what equipment you have available to you at work/school/etc.!
Now that you have some ideas, figure out which snacks appeal to you and add some of these items to your grocery list! Go to the store on Sunday (or whichever day works best for you) and gather these items so you’re prepared to make some healthy snacking choices throughout the work and/or school week. I want to remind you that snacks obviously contain calories, so if you are snacking more often, you may need to decrease the size of your meals so you aren’t consuming tons of extra calories during the day. You don’t want to start eating more than your body needs, but rather distribute the calories differently throughout the day if you’re going to incorporate more snacks! That’s all I got – SNACK AWAY, FRIENDS! 🙂
While we’re on the topic of snacking, the following recipe makes for a great on-the-go breakfast option OR a healthy snack! I found the original recipe on Skinny Mom and just tried it this past weekend – it disappeared FAST! Finally decided to branch out from my weekly banana bread. 😉 I made a few modifications to the recipe and those are the ingredients I have listed for you. My version helps save some calories, but if you do not have some of these items on hand, refer to the original ingredients in the parentheses! I hope you enjoy these bars as much as my family did!
Banana Oat Chocolate Chip Bars
- 2 ½ cups old fashioned oats
- 2 Tbsp Splenda Brown Sugar blend (or 1/3 cup light brown sugar)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp chocolate PB2 (or cocoa powder)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- ¼ cup Egg Beaters (or 1 egg)
- 3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
- ¼ cup reduced fat peanut butter
- 3 tbsp mini dark chocolate chips (reduced from 1/3 cup)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8×8” pan or cookie bar pan with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, baking powder, chocolate PB2 (or cocoa powder), and salt.
- Next, add vanilla extract, unsweetened almond milk and egg. Stir in mashed bananas and peanut butter. Mix well.
- Fold in dark chocolate chips and mix gently.
- Transfer mixture into baking pan. Sprinkle cinnamon on top if desired.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow bars to cool before serving. (Note: the original recipe said to bake for 15-20 minutes, but at 15 minutes mine still looked totally gooey. I left mine in for about 25 minutes and they were finally ready! Every oven is different, so I would suggest setting your timer for 15-18 minutes to check on them and put pan back in the oven as long as needed. Check often so they don’t get too done!) ENJOY!
I just have to mention that I started my new job on Monday and I’m so excited to finally be a WORKING girl! Wearing a name tag that says Registered Dietitian instead of INTERN is the best feeling ever. : ) There might be even more exciting things happening in the near future and I can’t wait to see where my career takes me!
I hope you’re all having an amazing week too!
eat well. live well. be happy.
Shanna, RD : )