I’ve been trying to eat healthier lately, which has made me realize that I’m a terrible snacker. I either don’t snack enough (because yes, snacking is good — it keeps your metabolism steady throughout the day) and am ravenous by dinner time, or I go on all-day snacking rampages that make my calorie-counting apps shake their heads with disappointment. Since Ami is the queen of healthy snacking and has already proven her abilities at giving me important life advice, I thought I’d ask her for some snack tips. Our conversation led me to a few epiphanies (it might be time to give up my super sugary energy bars) and the following list of healthy snack commandments…
1. Thou shalt eat snacks that are high in protein and fiber. The difference between a snack that energizes you and one that leaves you lagging? Protein! The difference between a snack that fills you up and one that has you looting the office candy jar 10 minutes later? Fiber! Good options include carrots and hummus, peanut butter on whole wheat toast (or an apple or celery), string cheese, and nuts.
2. Thou shalt not reach for super sugary snacks. This one can be tough because sugary snacks are not only delicious, they’re often convenient. Things like granola bars, cookies, cereal, and even fruit can spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling grumpy and hungry within an hour or so. Not ideal. If you are dying for a sweet snack, self-described sugar addict Ami advises a square of dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa (she loves the mini bars of these. Also these. And these.).
3. Thou shalt plan ahead. I follow a few fitness-obsessed people on Instagram and one of their favorite mottos is “fail to plan, plan to fail” (or more specifically #failtoplanplantofail). This is really good advice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out shopping or something, suddenly realized I was SO HUNGRY but didn’t have anything to eat with me, so I popped into Starbucks for a sugary drink and maybe a piece of coffee cake too. Now I carry low-sugar Kind bars in my purse, and stock my fridge with healthy stuff that’s easy to grab when I need a little nibble. Try keeping some pre-portioned bags of trail mix at your desk, or toss some 100-calorie snack packs in your glove compartment, and you’ll have something healthy to tide you over and keep you from giving in to the temptation of the vending machine or the drive-thru window.
4. Thou shalt not ignore portion size. One of my favorite lies to tell myself is, “If it’s healthy, I can eat as much of it as I want!” I apply this to everything from olive oil to avocados to hummus, AKA things that are definitely not healthy if you eat them in large quantities. With snacks, it’s even more important to keep portions reasonable (because really, what’s the difference between a snack and a meal but portion size?). Ami recommends pre-portioned hummus cups for mid-day snacking (either buy them ready-to-eat or scoop two tablespoons of hummus into a small tupperware container and bring to work). Whatever you munch on, try to keep the calorie count between 80 and 200.
5. Thou shalt time your snacks wisely. For most people, a mid-morning snack and a mid-afternoon snack suffice, but your best snack times really depend on your work, exercise, and meal schedule. Pay attention to your body and see what time you naturally get a little peckish, then try to stick to that snacking schedule. Your body likes consistency and so does your metabolism!
6. Thou shalt read the label. One of the best tips for healthy eating of any kind, but especially healthy snacking, is to learn to read food labels. Pay attention to things like sugar and salt content, weird ingredients you can’t pronounce (usually a bad sign), and the true serving size. The label on that bag of chips might say 100 calories, but if the serving size is, like, 5 chips, it’s really easy to blow your snacking calorie limit in a couple quick handfuls. “People are ignorant about how many calories and how much fat is in their food,” says Ami, “so make it your business to really know.”
[Photo of woman eating carrot via Shutterstock]