Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Snacking smart

The #1 question I always get from people when I tell them I'm into nutrition and healthy eating is, 'What should I be snacking on?'. I feel like people know more or less what they should be eating during mealtime (a mix of protein and carbs, heavy on vegetables, stay away from fried foods etc.), but snacks seem to be a big issue. 

Either people eat too much during their snacks and then aren't hungry for their next meal or they eat too little and aren't satisfied. I used to have the same problem, in fact. 

There are a couple simple rules of snacking that will help you make better choices. 
1. A snack should be about 150-250 calories depending on your daily caloric intake. If you work out and eat around 2000 calories and aren't looking to lose weight, a 200 calorie snack is fine. This applies to men as well. If you are looking to lose weight or don't move much, then 150 calories is plenty. 
2. A snack should be a mix of protein and carbs. This is one of the more important rules. If you have only fruit (carbs + sugar)  as a snack, your blood sugar will spike, and you'll end up hungrier than if you hadn't had anything. However, fruit and a small piece of cheese will tide you over till your next meal. Remember, carbs are quick energy while protein is what keeps you full. 
3. Consume a snack 3-4 hours after each meal. After 3 hours is when your blood sugar levels will begin dropping again, so it's the perfect time for a quick pick me up. If you wait too long to have a snack, you'll run the risk of overeating. 
4. Try to have your snack balance with the rest of your day. So if you've had a day heavy on carbs, then maybe have a snack with protein and fewer carbs (like sliced veggies and some hummus). Or if you've had a lot of protein, forgo the protein completely and have a slice of whole grain toast with avocado and tomatoes. 

Some of my favorite snacks include: 
My perfect snack: 1/2 slice of rye bread with PB and 1/2 banana. 
- A Wasa cracker with a thin spread of peanut butter or homemade hummus (recipe to come), with some fruit on the side. 
- Half a whole-wheat wrap with greens and olive paste (I know, weird). 
- A small bowl of salad with some beans. 
- Sliced red bell peppers and a small piece of cheese. 
- A handful of nuts (no more!). 

The most important thing is to listen to your hunger cues before they're screaming at you. The worst thing you can do is go too long without eating and overeat. Snack smart! 

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