Have you noticed that you tend to snack at certain times of the day.
If you're like most people, you start feeling a hungry about three hours after you've eaten a meal because your stomach has emptied and your glucose (sugar) levels have dropped, triggering your body to crave a snack to boost your energy level. Having a midmorning and midafternoon snack is fine. In fact, regular snacking keeps your metabolism humming along and your blood sugar level even. Healthy snacks also prevent you from feeling that ravenous "I've got to eat something now!" feeling that results in bingeing on junk food.
The Trouble with Snacks
The problem with snacks, and the reason they get a bad reputation, is that the ones eaten most of the time are cheaply processed, additive filled, sugar- and chemical-laden fake foods. The proof is inside every vending machine and on every grocery store check-out aisle. These kinds of snacks, the ones that come in a plastic package, give you a brief rush and a swift crash, which leads to yet another junk-food craving. These junky snacks aren't doing you any favors. They're adding extra calories to your diet and contributing zero nutrients.
Take charge of everything you eat by planning out and purchasing a week's worth of snacks when you're planning your meals. Instead of grabbing what's convenient from a machine, a fast food place, or the open refrigerator, make and pack your snacks the night before to ensure you're nibbling on something nutritious instead of something fattening. If you're trying to find a snack and can't decide if it's healthy, follow this rule of thumb: Good snacks don't come in crinkly packages! Here are some healthy ideas and a few snacks to avoid.
Healthy Snack Ideas
Package some of these in appropriate-sized portions to take on the go, or eat at home or the office.
- Nuts such as almonds
- Carrots lightly dipped in low-fat ranch dressing
- Instant oatmeal (without added sugar)
- Canned soup
- Fruit salad
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Popcorn you've air popped at home and stored in a baggie
- Sunflower seeds
- Celery and hummus
- Bean salad
- Rice cakes
Besides being good for your health and your physique, these snacks also help you set a good example for your children.
Junk Food that Masquerades as a Good Snack
Take a closer look. What's on the ingredient lists of snacks that tout their goodness with words like natural and trans-fat free? Could be dangerous. Beware these sneaky snacks:
- Prepackaged peanut butter or cheese product crackers. (Um … real cheese requires refrigeration, so we're not really sure what that orange stuff is! But it ain't cheese, so don't eat it.)
- Most yogurt. Before you dig into a cup of yogurt, check the label. If the second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, you're basically eating milk and a ton of sugar. Real yogurt and real fruit is a great snack, but you may not enjoy the real stuff if you're accustomed to the candied, artificially colored versions that are so readily available.
- Granola bars. They sound healthy, right? But those oats are bound together with sugar and are often coated in chocolate or candied yogurt.
- Baked chips. It doesn't matter how they're prepared, they're still chips. Only eat a few.
- Fruit and cereal bars. They say they're "made with real fruit" but the main ingredient is high fructose corn syrup.
- Trail mix. Between the added candy and the dried fruit, 1/3 cup of trail mix packs an amazing 30 grams of sugar.
- Yogurt raisins. A mere 1/4 cup of these contains 180 calories and 19 grams of sugar!