Healthy Eating: Healthy Snacking

Jenny Miller

Healthy Eating: Healthy Snacking

by Jenny Miller October 26, 2018

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Content contributed and originally ran on Lacuna Loft’s website at: https://lacunaloft.org/healthy-eating-healthy-snacking/.

Today we are welcoming, Jenny, a Registered Dietitian and Personal Fitness Coach. She graduated with a Bachelors in Dietetics from Fontbonne University in 2013. She went on to complete her dietetic internship and Master of Arts in Multidisciplinary Health Communication Studies from Fontbonne University in December of 2014. Jenny has a strong passion for both nutrition and fitness and strives to raise awareness, educate the public, and clear up misleading nutrition information. Jenny believes that balance, variety, and moderation are the key to a healthy lifestyle and strongly discourages food deprivation and fad diets. She hopes to help people build a healthy relationship with food, learn to seek credible nutrition information, and develop a healthy lifestyle (not diet) through fitness and nutrition.

Jenny will be talking to us about snacking your way into a healthy lifestyle! Thanks Jenny!

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For years, snacking has been frowned upon as a successful way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Society has been brainwashed into choosing quick fix diets that include cutting calories, fat, carbohydrates, etc. as a way to see quick results. I am here to tell you that those times have changed. As a Registered Dietitian, one of the most common questions I often hear my clients ask is, “how do I get rid of my cravings for snacks?”

Well, I am here to tell you do not need to give up snacking! Actually, incorporating snacks into your day has been proven to not only help with weight loss, but also increase metabolism, improve energy, improve concentration, and achieve essential nutrient needs.

I am a strong advocate for eating consistently throughout the day, not going without food for more than 2-3 hours. This is the key to successful weight maintenance and loss, as it keeps metabolism high. It also prevents overeating and poor food choices because you never let yourself get to the point of hunger or starvation. Healthy snacking plays a huge role in this ideal meal plan.

So what’s the catch, you ask? Well, obviously snacking on potato chips and candy is not what I am referring to in this situation. I am talking about snacking on healthy foods such as whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. Food manufacturers have been successful in getting Americans hooked on high sugar, high calorie snacks over the years, mainly due to their convenience. These snacks are highly processed and absolutely contribute to the obesity epidemic that is so present in this country.

So what are the best healthy snacks?

The ideal healthy snack is a mix of a protein and/or fat and a carbohydrate combination. A perfect example is an apple or banana and all natural peanut butter. The apple provides carbohydrates to refuel your body. It also provides fiber which will help you feel full longer. The peanut butter is a good source of protein and healthy fats that will help with satiety as well. Especially after a workout, it is important to consume a good protein/carb mix within 30 minutes to refuel and repair your muscles.

Healthy Snack Options:
• Apple and Peanut Butter
• Hardboiled eggs and fruit
• Whole grain bread and nut butter
• Tuna and whole grain crackers
• String cheese and a piece of fruit
• Trailmix
• Deli Roll Up-low-sodium deli meat with a piece of string cheese wrapped in it
• Hummus and veggies
• Cottage cheese with fruit
• Plain non-fat Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit

Let me break down the science of this real quickly for you. I won’t get too detailed, but it helps to have a brief understanding of how the body processes certain nutrients.

That bag of potato chips you love. We’ve all been there. We have reached the point of starvation and we hit the nearest vending machine and find the most convenient option. We’ll go with Doritos. They taste delightful and you are able to devour the bag in about 5 seconds. Here is why:

Simple carbohydrates (chips, candy, white bread, white pasta, etc) are digested and absorbed VERY quickly. This is why when you are sitting on the couch with a bag of potato chips, you can easily eat the whole bag in one sitting. Simple carbohydrates do not trigger satiety. You don’t even realize how quickly you are digesting endless amounts of these empty calories with no nutritional value. This is why it is important to choose whole grain carbohydrate sources that are filled with fiber. This may include brown rice, whole grain or whole wheat pasta and breads, quinoa, barley, and other whole cereal grains. White grain products are simple sugars, are absorbed quickly, and do not provide nutritional value.

Now let’s talk about protein and fat. Protein is absorbed much more slowly than carbohydrates, hence the reason for feeling fuller longer. Fat is absorbed EVEN more slowly than protein. That peanut butter or other nut butter that goes on your apple. Almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, string cheese, Greek yogurt. These are all good sources of protein and healthy fats and will help keep you full.

The purpose of a good protein or fat and carbohydrate combination is to give you all the essential nutrients you need and the satiety to get you to the next meal. The purpose of healthy snacking is to give your body the nourishment it needs to get through the day.

When we think of convenient snacks, we think of unhealthy snacks. But I am here to tell you that snacking can be both convenient AND healthy. It just takes a little planning ahead.

If you are at a loss of where to start when it comes to healthy snacking, here are a few tips of my own and suggestions that stem from the research by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
• Plan Ahead: Keep a variety of healthy snacks nearby at all times. I always have a bag of nuts, hardboiled eggs, string cheese, yogurt or fruit in my lunch box at work. This helps with unhealthy food temptations and the desire to hit the vending machine or nearby convenient store. Preparation is key!
• Choose Nutrient Dense Foods: Make your snack calories count. Choose foods with a good carb/protein/fat ratio that will satisfy you until the next meal. Consider snacks as small meals that will help you get those extra fruits and vegetables in your day!
• Don’t Deprive Yourself: I believe in everything in moderation. If you are craving a bag of chips or a piece of candy, you can have it. Just watch your portion size. Deprivation leads to binging and unhealthy relationships with food. You can feed your cravings occasionally and still be healthy. After you feed your unhealthy craving, make sure you are back on track for the rest of the day. It will be okay. It’s all about consistency and habits. All food fits.
• Watch Portion Size: A good rule of thumb is to keep snacks between 100 and 200 calories. A good protein to carbohydrate ratio is 10-15 grams protein and 15-30 grams carbohydrate per snack.
• Drink Water!!! Sometimes when we think we are hungry, we are just dehydrated. If you are feeling hungry, drink a glass of water and see how you feel. If you are still hungry, it’s time for your snack.

I hope that snacking begins to be viewed in a healthier way and that people use it as a tool to improve overall health. It all starts with building a healthy relationship with food, and if you can do that, then the rest will fall together on its own. Food is a wonderful thing that fuels and nourishes our body. Be aware, do your research using credible sources, and if you have food and nutrition related questions don’t hesitate to seek advice from a nutrition professional such as a Registered Dietitian.

Happy Snacking!
Jenny Miller, MA, RD, LD