It’s that time between breakfast and lunch where the all familiar gurgling of your stomach starts…it’s snack time. Often times, snack foods are synonymous with unhealthy junk food, but there are lots of great choices you can make to help tide you over between meals. In fact, snacks make up nearly one-quarter of daily calories and Americans snack twice as often as they did in the late 1970s.
While the science is mixed, snacking has been found to either control appetite or boost diet quality or contribute to excess calories, fats and added sugars. That is why most agree that the type of snack matters. A study of 233 adults in a worksite wellness program found that total snacking calories and frequency of snacking were unrelated to diet quality or Body Mass Index (BMI). However, the choice of snack foods affected booth. Best Food Facts registered dietitian Sarah Downs talks with us about different healthy snack options.
How many calories should snacks contain?
Sarah Downs, RD: “The ideal amount is 200-300, depending on your activity level and age.”
What does a healthy snack look like?
Sarah Downs, RD: “A healthy snack includes carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates to include are fruits, vegetables, whole grains (crackers, popcorn, bread, oatmeal). Protein options are lean deli meats, low-fat dairy products, nuts or nut butter, eggs or beans/legumes.
Be mindful of portion sizes of snacks and think of them more like “mini-meals.” Many people need to eat every 3-4 hours, but pay attention to your hunger cues and what you have already consumed throughout the day when making your snacking decisions. A good rule of thumb is a healthy and balanced snack between breakfast and lunch and one between lunch and dinner. Preparing snacks for the entire week makes it easy to “grab and go.””
What are some healthy snack combinations?
Sarah Downs, RD:
- Whole grain crackers or veggies and hummus
- Cottage cheese with berries on top
- Whole grain toast with avocado and egg on top
- Sliced bananas with nut butter
- Air-popped popcorn with a handful of almonds mixed in
- Here are some additional ideas!
What’s your favorite snack?
Sarah Downs, RD: “I love dipping sliced apples in almond or peanut butter!”
Find additional snacking tips and tricks here.
The image “Healthy Snacks” by Kenneth Patrick is licensed under CC BY NC-ND.