Snacking sometimes gets a bad rap, but snacking can be great for you when you choose sensible portions of nutritious snacks. For instance, snacks can:
Add good nutrition to your eating plan by providing important nutrients and filling in food groups you missed at meals.
Give you fuel to keep going through the day.
Dampen your appetite so you’re less likely to overeat at meals.
Try these secrets to make the most of your snacks:
Follow the five food groups
Choose foods that contribute to the recommended daily food group amounts in your MyPlate eating plan. For example:
Whole-grain cereal, whole-grain crackers and popcorn from the Grains Group
Broccoli florets, celery sticks and radishes from the Vegetables Group
Apples, strawberries and raisins from the Fruit Group
Reduced-fat cheese sticks and low fat or fat free yogurt from the Dairy Group
Nuts, sunflower seeds and hummus from the Protein Group
Make snacks part of the plan
Include snacks as part of your eating plan, not as “extras” or you might get too many calories. Think about what food groups you’re missing and use snacks to fill in the gaps. For instance, if you didn’t have milk in the morning, snack on a serving of cheese or yogurt in the afternoon. If you missed fruit during the day, snack on an orange or a banana in the evening.
Prepare to snack
Put nutritious snacks on your shopping list so you have plenty of nutritious options on hand.
Practice portion control
A smart snack is big enough to take the edge off your appetite, but not so big that you eat too many calories. To control portions, use the serving size information on the Nutrition Facts label as a guide, put a portion of your snack on a plate or in a bowl rather than eating out of the bag or container, or choose snacks with built-in portion control. For many people, a snack with 100 to 200 calories is about right. See 20 smart snacks for 150 calories or less
Pack a snack
Toss a bag of baby carrots, a yogurt cup or some grapes in your lunch bag to stow in the office fridge for an afternoon snack. If you’re on the go all day, bring along non-perishable items such as whole-wheat pretzels, nuts or dried fruit.
Choose nutritious quick picks
Choose vending machine snacks such as cereal bars, yogurt cups, small bags of nuts or trail mix, fresh fruit, fat free milk or 100% fruit juice. At the drive through, look for small green salads or fruit salads, bags or cups of fruit, or small cups or cones of low fat frozen yogurt or reduced-fat ice cream.
Time it right
Snack two or three hours before your next meal to take the edge off your hunger. You might be less likely to munch while you make dinner or overeat at your meal.
Skip distracted snacking
Break the habit of snacking while you watch TV or talk on the phone, or you might overeat before you realize it. Pay attention to what and how much you eat, so your snack is enjoyable and satisfying. And only snack if you’re hungry, not just out of habit.