Have you ever had one of those moments where you’ve been head down focused on a project and suddenly realize you are starving? Those situations are even worse when you aren’t at a stopping point, but in order to keep going you have to eat or you will quickly lose focus and may even start making mistakes. Although this is an extreme example, it’s moments like this that our diets are most vulnerable and we are most likely to grab something unhealthy, if we aren’t prepared.
You already know that meal planning is necessary if you want to stay on track with your food choices and health goals, but you may not realize that snack planning is important also. Or maybe you do, but aren’t sure what to plan to eat in order to satisfy your belly and contribute to your nutrition.
Here are my suggestions for surviving a snack attack:
1. Plan to snack on real food and not junk food.
Although the candy machine is convenient and inexpensive, it rarely contains anything that is worth your while nutritionally… even the granola bars can be packed with sugar. So plan to eat real food for your snacks, just perhaps in smaller portions. Examples include:
- Hard-boiled egg… with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper if you want to get fancy
- A small smoothie… obviously not so easy at the office, but good for an after school snack. This is also a great way to include veggies in your snack.
- A cup or small bowl of soup or chili
- A small bowl of sauerkraut or other lacto-fermented vegetables (many stores carry jars of it in the refrigerator sectioin)
- A small salad… of any kind: green, mixed, Waldorf, watermelon and tomato, Greek, tabbouleh, jicama and grapefruit, mixed fruit, cole slaw, etc.
- A handful of mixed roasted nuts
- Some nut butter with sliced fruit or vegetables, and for added crunch put it on a rice cake or whole grain crackers… one of my recent favorites is a whole grain rice cake with cashew butter and half of a banana. It’s a little sweet, a little salty and a little crunchy. Perfect!
2. Be sure to include some protein and/or fiber in your snack to feel satisfied.
Research has shown that protein causes the right hormones to be released to tell your brain that you are satisfied, while fiber fills our stomachs without adding calories (because we can’t digest it). Many of the above examples contain protein and/or fiber, and here are some additional examples:
- Plain yogurt (whether cow, goat, coconut or almond milk) with:
- Added fruit (to avoid the added sugars in fruit yogurt),
- Mild veggies like cucumber or bell pepper (think of Greek cuisine that uses tzatziki with vegetables),
- Unsweetened coconut shavings, and/or
- Toasted nuts (almond slivers, walnut pieces, pine nuts, chopped hazelnuts, etc)
- Hummus with sliced veggies (go crazy with variety here… radishes, snap peas, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc)
- Homemade trail mix with roasted (no salt added) nuts and dried (no sugar added) fruit… of course, you can also toss in some dark chocolate chips as long as you aren’t cleansing, trying to kick a sugar habit, or preventing your acid reflux from being triggered; or just…
- A small handful of nuts or seeds
- Chicken, tuna or salmon salad on whole grain crackers, a rice cake or lettuce leaves
- A big glass of water with a whole seed fiber mixed in (I often do this when I am cleansing to tide me over to the next meal and up my fiber intake at the same time. Just be sure you pick a hefty fiber that has ground psyllium husks, chia seeds and/or ground flaxseeds so they will absorb the water in your stomach and make you feel full. The fibers that dissolve fully in water won’t give you the full feeling.)
3. Be sure you are actually hungry.
I know this may sound strange,but many of us don’t know when we are actually hungry and when our stomachs are just empty or we are thirsty. Especially if we have a habit of grabbing a snack at 3 pm, the desire to do that may just be related to the habit and not to an actual hunger. So, before you reach for any food, determine when was the last time you finished 10 or more ounces of water. If it’s been more than an hour, have some water, wait 20 minutes, and then see if you still feel hungry. If you do, refer to #1 and #2 above.
I’ve given examples of snacks I like, but I’m sure you have some favorites that fit these guidelines as well. Tell me in the comments what your favorite healthy snacks are so we can all survive snack attacks while keeping it interesting and nutritious.
— European Food Information Council. What makes us feel full? The satiating power of foods. Accessed on April 1, 2015. http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/what-makes-us-feel-full/
— Perry S. The neural regulation of thirst. In Neural Network Function. Accessed on April 2, 2015. http://www.brainfacts.org/brain-basics/neural-network-function/articles/2008/the-neural-regulation-of-thirst/