Kate Rudisill MS, RD, LDN, CDE is a Registered Dietitian and certified Diabetes Instructor at the REX Diabetes Education Center in Raleigh and Cary.
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘snack’? A bag of chips during your favorite movie, or a bowl of ice cream before bed? Snacks don’t have to be unhealthy, and can actually serve as an essential part of our diet when chosen wisely. A well-timed, healthy snack keeps us from becoming too hungry and overeating at the next meal. Snacking can also help fill gaps left by our regular diet, and improve intake of micronutrients and essential food groups. Here are some tips for smart snacking:
- Be mindful: Before reaching for a snack, think about how long it has been since your last meal, and if you’re truly hungry. If the desire for a snack is the result of boredom, frustration or stress, try to fill the void with a hobby or exercise.
- Portion control: When assembling your snack, portion it out according to the serving size instead of taking the entire package with you. This can help avoid overeating. Also, assemble pre-portioned snacks for the coming week so that you can grab them and go.
- Choose wisely: When possible, try to include two food groups in your snack. Pairing a high fiber food with a protein choice will be more satisfying and keep you fuller longer.
- It’s all about timing: Your body needs fuel in between meals, so plan a snack for mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This will help to avoid overeating at lunch and dinner.
Now that you know how, when and why to choose your snack, here are some healthy and tasty snack ideas!
- Chopped carrots, peppers and cucumbers with 1/3 cup hummus
- Sliced apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- 6 whole-wheat crackers with 1 slice of cheese
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt with berries
- 3 cups of non-buttered popcorn sprinkled with 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
- ½ cup shelled, steamed edamame
- 2 slices deli turkey rolled up with 1 slice cheese and 1 slice tomato
- 6-inch flour tortilla with ¼ cup black beans and 2 tablespoons salsa
- Toaster waffle topped with ½ cup blueberries and 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- Oven-baked sweet potato fries seasoned with olive oil, chili powder and salt: Chop 1 sweet potato into fries, season, and bake at 425F for 20-25 minutes.
- Banana oatmeal walnut cookies: Combine 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed, and 1 cup uncooked quick oats in a bowl. Fold in ¼ cup crushed walnuts. Scoop 1 tablespoon at a time onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.
- Fruit smoothie: Blend 1 cup fat-free milk, ½ cup frozen strawberries, and ½ frozen banana (or fruits of your choice totaling 1 cup).
- Protein bites: Combine 1.5 tbsp nut butter, 3 tbsp oats, ½ tbsp. honey and ½ tbsp. dark chocolate chips. Roll into balls. Eat 1-2 protein bites as a snack.