Many people can relate to what I like to call the “3 o’clock rumble phenomenon”. You’re sitting at your desk, or wandering the grocery aisles and all of the sudden your tummy starts to rumble and you grab the first thing in sight- be it a fruit or a chocolate bar or cookie (or the whole package!) just to tide you over until your next meal.
Snacking is an important part of a healthy diet, and research shows that people who snack tend to weigh less and make better eating choices at meal time. But to get the most out of your snacks, not just anything will do.
There are really reasons that make daily snacks so important and the two components of a healthy snack, protein and carbohydrates, each tackle one.
Snacking reason number one: They give us energy! Our bodies need fuel to work, and they need it consistently. This is where carbohydrates come in. Carbohydrates can be broken down into sugars for the body to use as energy. Though many people only associate “carbs” with bread (which can also be a healthy snack component) they can be found in cereals, fruits and vegetables as well. Look for a carbohydrate source which contains 3 grams of fiber or more. This slows the rate at which we absorb those sugars and can help keep steady blood sugars.
Reason number 2: they keep us full! There are often large gaps between meals (ie. more than 4-6 hours) meaning that by the time that many people sit down to dinner, their lunch is ancient history and they are ready to eat the ENTIRE chicken….not just their piece. That’s where protein comes in. Protein is digested slowly, so it gives us a lasting “I’m full” feeling so that we can go back to work and sit down to dinner without having chewed off anyone’s arms. Aiming for a snack with 10-20 grams of protein doesn’t mean bringing an extra steak to work. Snacking on 3/4 cup greek yogurt, a handful of nuts or even drinking a glass of milk works too!
Because we snack for both reasons- we need both components to create a balanced snack. Always pair a protein containing food with a carbohydrate containing food to keep you full and give you energy throughout the day!
Some balanced snack ideas include:
1 tbsp peanut butter on a banana
3/4 cup greek yogurt with berries
1/2 cup of mixed almonds and raisins
a small bowl of cereal with milk
a sliced apple with almond butter
1/2 cup low fat frozen yogurt with 1 tbsp slivered almonds
2 tbsp hummus with sliced veggies
for a nut free facility substitute peanut butter for soy butter and whole nuts for soy nuts
Any of these snacks are easily gluten free!