Take a second and think about eating healthy. What kinds of foods are you envisioning? When are you eating them? I’m sure you’re thinking about eating your fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy protein as part of a balanced meal. But how much thought are you giving to the foods you are eating for snacks?
How often do you do a really good job of planning out healthy meals for the week to only come home after work (or school) and sit down with a bag of potato chips? You’re definitely not alone.
This past March was National Nutrition Month and the theme for this year was “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” It was meant to encourage people to enjoy food and its great flavors. It also served as a reminder to think about the importance of how, when, why, and where we eat and to develop mindful eating patterns that include nutritious and flavorful foods.
This made me think about the food choices I make every day. I often plan ahead for a healthy meal or snack at work. However, I usually fail to plan for the weekends, and that quick snack I sometimes need while making dinner. I often reach for a snack that I later regret.
I did some research about how to clean up my snacking and here are some of the best tips I found:
- Think of a snack as a small meal. Snacks should resemble what you might eat as part of meal, but they should be kept around 150 to 200 calories. Your snack should include sources or protein, whole grains, or fruits and vegetables. You want to choose foods that will fuel you and not leave you feeling hungry an hour later.
- Reach for fruits and vegetables. These provide an array of healthy nutrients. Keep fruits and vegetables readily available in your home; you may be surprised at how often for reach for them if they’re available.
- Whole fruits are better than juice. Even if you are making your own fresh juice, eating the whole fruit is the better way to go. Important vitamins and nutrients can be lost in the juicing process, and it likely won’t be as filling. For example, drinking the juice of one apple won’t be as filling as eating one apple.
- Don’t eat straight out of the container. It is much harder to control how much you eat when you eat straight out of the bag or container, especially, when doing so while watching TV or working on the computer. The mindless eating often leads you to eat a lot more than you intended.
- Use snacks to fill nutritional gaps. Use your snack as an opportunity to consume more fruits and vegetables that your diet might be lacking.
- Only snack when hungry. Are you reaching for a snack because you are hungry or are you bored? To figure out whether you’re snacking out of boredom or because you truly are hungry, try distracting yourself. If the hunger pangs linger after distracting yourself, go ahead and reach for a sensible snack.
Creating new snacking habits isn’t easy, and what works for someone else may not work for you. Everyone’s eating preferences are different, so find what healthy snack options you love and stick with them. And most importantly, find joy in the decisions that you are making. If you feel as though eating healthy is a chore or a punishment, you likely won’t stick with it. Get creative with your snacks and have fun!