When it came to my sanity, snacking on something between lunch and dinner helped prevent me from wanting to push the entire refrigerator into my mouth by 6 p.m. Sadly though, I wasn't always making the right choices. Instead, my snack choices left me feeling sleepy, famished, and weren't doing anything for my waistline. I decided to get serious about snack time by making these changes, and now feel more alert, less bloated, and the scale is even budging!
Crackers, Pretzels, Chips, Oh My!
Can you say carbs? Yes, a snack is supposed give you energy to get through your day, but munching strictly on chips or pretzels left me feeling sleepy and hungry. On their own, I found that refined carbs were a terrible snack choice because they tend to be low in fiber and protein, the nutrients you need to feel satiated. I started to make sure my snack choice had fiber and protein, which kept me fuller longer. Carrots with hummus or a few homemade banana oat protein balls are my new choices.
I've Got to Have That Cookie!
Whether picking up an enormous 300-calorie peanut butter cookie when out buying my lunch or consuming a bar of dark chocolate, sugary snacks left me feeling foggy, and the empty calories — although super delicious — wasn't helping with my weight-loss goals. To satisfy my sweet cravings, I started enjoying a fruit and protein smoothie or a date with almond butter.
Two Is Key
Certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition told POPSUGAR that snacks should contain at least two of the following to help you feel fuller longer: protein (6-10 grams), fiber (at least 3 grams), and healthy fats (6-10 grams). Heeding her advice, I started making sure I wasn't just eating my normal piece of fruit, but would couple it with some protein or healthy fats, like raw almonds. This banana sushi snack is one of my go tos.
But Nuts Are High in Protein, Right?
While nuts offer all three, I was eating handful after handful of salted cashews with raisins — I'm sure I ate almost a cup's worth. One handful is a serving, so even when eating healthy foods, I make sure to stick to serving sizes!
Eating a Meal, Not Snack
A snack is supposed to be a little something — not a lot of something. To keep things in check, I now keep my snacks around 150-200 calories, which means it's important to choose the right foods. Case in point: one of my go-to snacks used to be a Cashew Cookie Larabar (I'm a little addicted to these!) and a banana. This combo was the equivalent of 330 calories, which was almost as much as my breakfast. To navigate around this, I started checking the labels on my protein and granola bars and realized they were higher in calories than I thought. So instead of an entire Larabar, I might enjoy half with a handful of berries.
Thirsty, Not Hungry
One thing I realized is that it became a habit to eat an afternoon snack. I'd get the slightest urge to have a little something and immediately reach for food. So I started reaching for a water bottle instead. I'd drink about 12 ounces, and then give it about 10 minutes to see if I was still feeling hungry or not. Most of the time the feeling subsided, or I'd only need a little bite of something like an orange, which saved me unnecessary calories. So before going straight to crunching, try sipping!