It's 3 pm and your energy is running low. You need something to keep yourself from totally nodding off, so you grab a bag of chips. They don't totally satisfy, but they taste good and you're too busy to eat anything else.
Fast-forward a few hours and you're arriving home feeling HANGRY to say the least. Just about anything sounds good and you know you've gotta eat something before you start dinner. A few handfuls of cereal, a half a box of crackers, an apple and some string cheese later, and you're feeling less than amazing (hello, food guilt!) and your appetite for dinner is totally shot.
If this scene sounds familiar, this post is for you.
Snacks don't have to leave you feeling sluggish. In fact, healthy snacks should leave you feeling full, satisfied and totally in control around food. Read on to learn why I recommend snacking regularly, and my easy formula for building balanced, filling and healthy snacks every time. Bonus: scroll to the end of this post for 30 healthy snack ideas!
Is snacking healthy?
In the free-for-all world of Google nutrition, there seems to be some debate about whether or not snacking is a healthy habit. My take? It depends!
Like with almost everything in nutrition, whether you include snacks or not depends on you and your unique body. The un-sexy truth is that we will all respond differently to different styles of eating.
But in general, I consider snacking a healthful habit because:
- Snacks help add nutrients and fibre to your day
- Snacks help stabilize blood sugars throughout the day
- Smaller meals with snacks may be better tolerated for those with sensitive digestive systems when compared to large meals
- Well-balanced snacks prevent hanger and help you feel in control around food
- Let's be real—snacks are life!
How to build healthy snacks that fill you up
Okay, so now that you know I'm a snack super-fan, let's talk The Formula!
To build a filling, nutritious snack, include at least two of the following:
- Carbs: Carbs provide fuel. That's why when you're low on energy, this is often what you'll crave. Fibre-filled carbohydrates are best, but they can truly all fit.
- Protein: Protein is for staying power. Not only is this macronutrient the building block for muscles and other lean tissue, it also boosts satiety and helps regulate appetite.
- Fat: Fat gives satisfaction. It's true that fats are calorie-dense and a little goes a long way, but they're still important for staying full and satisfied.
Aim to combine foods from at least two different categories at snack time. If you can fit all three, even better! Here's an easy guide to help.
Are low calorie snacks healthy?
You may be thinking, "This sounds great but that sounds like a calorie-loaded combo."
My response? Calories are not king… despite what Reddit might tell you! I mean, it's true that in order to maintain our weight we need to balance the amount of calories we consume (through food and beverages) with the amount of calories we expend (through daily living and exercise). But a low calorie snack isn't always superior.
If you're snacking out of boredom, sure, a simple snack of veggies or fruit may work for you. I'll never discourage adding more produce into your day!
But if you're snacking out of true hunger, a low calorie snack simply means it will provide low energy and little satisfaction.
I challenge you to shift your thinking. Instead of viewing snacks as an opportunity to keep your calories as low as possible, think of them as an opportunity to nourish.
A well-balanced snack helps provide your body with nutrients to help you feel your best. And a well-balanced day of eating prevents those 'binge-like', out-of-control feelings that can happen when we chronically under-fuel. Full, balanced snacks regulate appetite and keep you in control.
30 Healthy balanced snack ideas
Here are some simple, filling snack combinations I love:
- Sliced apple and cheddar cheese
- Soy milk latte and fruit of choice
- Mixed nuts and chocolate
- Frozen waffle with nut butter and berries
- High fibre crackers and hummus
- Carrot sticks and guacamole
- Graham crackers and peanut butter (add some chocolate chips for good measure, trust me!)
- Oatmeal with fruit and almond butter
- Dried apricots and pecans
- Plain greek yogurt with sliced grapes and honey
- Homemade muffin and peanut butter
- Activia yogurt with mixed nuts
- Raspberries and chocolate chips
- Bell peppers and hummus
- Rice cakes with guacamole and hemp seeds
- Homemade trail mix with popcorn, nuts and dried cranberries
- Turkey and cheese roll-ups
- Whole wheat english muffin, avocado and hard boiled egg
- Celery sticks and peanut butter
- Turkey jerky and baby carrots
- Edamame with sliced cucumbers
- Mixed nuts and chocolate
- Chia pudding with berries
- Homemade smoothie with greek yogurt, fruit and flaxseed
- Snap peas and hummus
- Whole milk latte and popcorn
- Pretzels and peanut butter
- Snack bar such as KIND Bars, GoMacro or RXBAR
- Greek yogurt with peanut butter and berries
- Whole wheat bagel with hummus and tomato
Don't forget, all foods can fit. These nutritious snacks are awesome choices most of the time, but sometimes you're just going to want a cookie... and that's totally OK!