If you frequently eat between meals, those extra portions have a big impact on your health. They could play an important role in helping you to manage your weight and take in all the nutrients your body needs. On the other hand, USDA studies show that currently, we’re taking in about one-third of our daily empty calories from those afternoon candy bars and late-night refrigerator raids. That means most of us are consuming two to four times the recommended limit in solid fats and added sugars. Turn those numbers around by learning how to choose smart snacks that are good for your health and wellbeing. Try these tips to get started.
1. Focus on whole grains. Bake your own treats or look for packaged food that lists whole grains as the first ingredient. Whole wheat flour has more nutrients and fiber than white flour.
2. Reduce sugar and sodium. Many junk foods are loaded with sugar and sodium. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit instead.
3. Plan a balanced menu. Think of your snacks as miniature meals that need to include all three food groups. Along with complex carbohydrates, add in lean proteins and healthy fats.
4. Opt for whole foods. You may be tempted to simplify things by just grabbing an energy bar or buying cookies that are labeled low fat or low sugar. In fact, many convenience foods are less healthy than the label suggests. Buy natural foods like raw nuts and plain yogurt.
5. Drink up. If you’re pressed for time, you can snack on healthy beverages. Tea contains antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients. Water will keep you hydrated and feeling full. For heartier fare, whip up smoothies in minutes with vegetables, natural peanut butter, or other goodies.
6. Eat more produce. On average, we’re eating 3 servings of fruits and vegetables compared to the recommendations for 7 to 13 servings. Snacks can help you fill in the gap.
7. Find substitutions. You probably have certain snacks that you crave the most. If they’re high in sugar or saturated fat, consider how to adjust them. Oven-baked fries are much slimmer than the fast-food version. A square of dark chocolate is lighter than a doughnut.
Spot the triggers that make you want to overindulge and develop strategies for dealing with them. Select snacks that stabilize your blood sugar and give you the energy you need to sail through your busy day. Nutritious foods and advance planning will help you to stay fit and healthy while you graze between meals.