Snacks have become a staple part of the American lifestyle. We snack on the go, in the car, in front of the TV, at the office or in class, and even in bed. Snacking has become a routine part of our day that we eat approximately 600 calories a day in snacks—that’s about one third of our total daily intake! According to consumer market research, women grab about three snacks per day. If chosen wisely, they can help boost your metabolism, provide consistent energy throughout the day and help in weight management. Munching between meals can help decrease your hunger and keep you from overeating at your next meal.
If you’ve ever forgotten to pack a lunch and ended up ordering fast food from the drive-thru, then you know that healthy eating requires planning. Preparing your meals and snacks the night before is helpful for those of us who are constantly on the go. Pre-cut some fruits and vegetables and include a variety of snack options. Packing yourself some healthy snacks will definitely help you avoid the post vending machine sugar rush.
Follow this guide to help you make healthy decisions:
- If the calories coming from fat are more than half of the total calories, it is not a healthy choice.
- A snack should contain 150-200 calories.
- Pay attention to portion sizes. Read nutrition labels and make sure to keep within the serving size.
- Pick snacks that are low in sugar and fat, but high in fiber—aim for 3 grams of fiber per snack.
- Aim for fruits, vegetables and whole-grain snacks.
- Avoid trying to drink your calories. Choosing a fresh fruit is a better choice than fruit juice.
- Measure out snacks in plastic bags so they are easy to throw in your purse or keep in your car.
- Combine a carbohydrate with protein to make it more filling and to prevent your blood sugar levels from rising too high.
Some healthy snack ideas:
1 small banana with 1 tbsp. of peanut butter
1 medium apple
Strawberries with Greek yogurt
A handful of grapes with 1 oz. cheese
Raisins and almonds
Baby carrots and celery sticks
Zucchini chips (recipe below)
2 tbsp. guacamole spread on 1 whole-wheat toast
Breads, Cereals, Rice and Pasta:
2 graham crackers with 1 tbsp. peanut butter
3 cups air-popped popcorn
½ whole-wheat English muffin with cream cheese
4 whole-wheat crackers with 1 oz. cheese
Fat-free or Low-fat Milk, Cheese and Yogurt:
6 oz. cup fat-free plain yogurt
½ cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup fat-free milk
1 string cheese
1 hardboiled egg
8 baked tortilla chips with salsa
¼ cup hummus
Don’t Set Yourself Up for Failure
If you know you have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies, then do yourself a favor and don’t even buy them when grocery shopping. This will save you the mental energy you will spend trying to fight the temptation.
Avoid distractions while eating, as this may lead to an unintentional binge because your brain isn’t focusing on the hand-to-mouth motion.
Instead of having three big meals a day, try having three smaller meals with a snack after each. Eating regularly will help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and it will also help curb your appetite so you aren’t starving by the next meal. This will help reduce the overall amount of calories you consume on a daily basis and therefore trim your waistline. As always, practice moderation and aim for balance.
Try this snack recipe for zucchini as your first step:
- Thinly slice the zucchini (the thinner the slices, the more the crisp).
- Lay the slices on a paper towel and lightly sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 10 minutes (this will help draw out the moisture).
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Blot the zucchini slices to remove moisture (this will help make them crispy)
- Lay out the slices on a baking sheet and lightly brush each side with olive oil.
- Sprinkle the tops of the slices with any seasoning of your choice (some options: sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon pepper salt. garlic powder)
- Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until they’ve reached your desired level of crispiness.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.
Yasmeen Hantuli is Layali’s Health & Fitness blogger. She graduated from California State University, San Bernardino with a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Nutrition and a minor in Arabic. She received her master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Loma Linda University in June 2014 after completing an accredited internship to become a Registered Dietitian. She currently resides in San Francisco, Calif. with her supportive husband. Yasmeen has a love for Islam, food, health, culture and helping others.