It can strike without warning, sitting at your desk, running errands, even while picking up the kids. You want a snack. Maybe you’re really hungry. Maybe you’re just bored. Whatever the reason, the craving is strong enough. You know you’ll give in. It’s Ok. Go ahead. Have a snack!
That might not be the reaction you expect from a personal trainer. Many people consider snacking, cheating on their diet. Truth is, I wasn’t always a believer in the power of the snack until I got my fitness specific nutrition certification. The problem isn’t the snacking itself. In fact, snacks are essential to keep your metabolism at a high rate. I regularly eat 2 snacks a day. The problem is what people often choose to eat for a snack.
Just like you have to plan to eat healthy, you have to plan to snack healthy. Since the urge for a snack often creeps up out of nowhere you need a game plan so that when the craving strikes you don’t just grab the first thing you see and fill your body with junk. You want to be sure that what you grab truly fuels you and gives you the energy you need.
Let me give you the skinny on snacking and lay out a few rules that can help keep you on track.
First, get it out of your head that a snack has to be sweet. Snacks do not have to automatically contain sugar. I realize that way of thinking may go against how you were conditioned to think as a child. Back when I was growing up, a typical snack was a cookie, or, in my case, cinnamon toast. Fortunately, we know better now. We’ve got to show the next generation of snackers there are better choices.
While we’re talking about getting your head right, be aware of why you are snacking. You may just be stressed or tired. Try getting up and taking a walk. If you that doesn’t curb the craving then your body probably really needs to eat.
Nuts are my go to snack. Forget that old belief that nuts will make you fat. Only salted or roasted nuts or nuts with added sugar will make you fat. Raw, unsalted nuts are a healthy choice. My wife, Morgan, and I buy them in bulk! Nuts have been linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health and even a lower cancer risk. Almonds are my favorite. They offer some unique benefits to your blood sugar. One study found that when eaten with bread, almonds actually lower the glycemic index. That means if you add a little almond butter to your toast in the morning it will lessen the bread’s impact on your blood sugar level! Cool, right?! Walnuts are another great choice. Just one quarter cup of walnuts gives you 90 percent of the daily recommended value of omega 3 fats. If you’re still worried about the fat content and want a nut with the lowest amount of fat, grab a handful of Cashews.
No boxed or bagged snacks. Instead, make your own. My paleo protein balls and paleo lemon bars are a great option. By making your own snacks you can be sure to control the ingredients and the calories you consume. Measure out the correct portion size and put them in small containers or bags so they are easy to carry or store in the car or at your desk at work. Pre-packaged snacks might be handy but they aren’t always healthy. Store-bought energy bars, smoothies and trail mix can contain loads of calories and sugars. In general a protein, fiber filled snack will make you feel full longer. The right snack can actually help you reduce your caloric intake at your next meal by curbing over-eating. In that way, adding snacks to your day can help you subtract pounds! Now surely you can support that idea!
Night time snacking. This one might surprise you. You have probably heard you should never snack at night but I say night snacking is OK too. However, I do suggest staying away from refined sugars late at night. Opt for apples, or carrot sticks. Bananas loaded with fiber and relaxing tryptophan (you know the stuff in turkey that makes you sleepy) is also a good option.
The most important factor in losing weight is staying within your recommended daily calorie allotment. If you are over your calorie intake for the day then no night-time snack As long as you are within your range its fine. The danger in night time snacking is that that’s often the time we snack because we are bored, or stressed, not because we are hungry. Emotional eating quickly leads to overeating so make sure you eat mindfully and don’t snack while you are watching TV or sitting at the computer. When we are distracted our brain barely registers the hand-to-mouth motion and before you know it, those few chips turn into a whole bag!
The reality is you are going to snack sometimes. A recent survey by Nielsen found 91 percent of people snack daily. The survey also found that nearly one in four women snack three to four times a day. So what?! As long as you are snacking for the right reasons, watching your calorie intake, and choosing fueling options I say snack away! Now if you’ll excuse me… I need a snack! I’m going to go eat a rice cake with almond butter.