Are Your Snacks Helping You or Hurting You?

 There is a massive difference between a “snack” and a “treat,” regardless of what the food manufacturers try to tell you. A snack should be like a “mini-meal” and contain smaller amounts of the nourishing foods that should make up your main meals. If your snack doesn’t both provide nutrition and keep you full until the next time that you eat, it’s a treat. While we are on the subject of “mini-meals,” you should know that there is no reliable evidence that eating several small meals is better for weight loss than eating three larger meals. In my experience, it depends on the individual. For some people, eating several mini-meals gives them more chances to overeat. Other people feel less deprived and more energetic by following a mini-meal plan.

You generally don’t need a snack unless you’re otherwise going to go for four or more hours without food. Need and want are two very different things, though, and sometimes you want a snack damn it!

Whatever you do, don’t mindlessly snack while working, standing at the fridge, watching TV, or using a computer. This will almost certainly lead to your eating more than you would otherwise.

If you’re stuck in a snacking rut or confused by the health claims made on certain processed snack foods, this list will help you choose a nourishing snack instead of reaching for an unneeded treat.

  • Whole-grain crackers (such as Triscuit Hint of Salt, FinnCrisp, RyCrisp, or Blue Diamond Almond Artisan Nut-Thins with Sesame Seeds) and natural (unprocessed) cheese
  • Unbuttered popcorn with 2 Tbsp of cheddar cheese
  • Instant oatmeal – plain and flavored with a few raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, sliced banana, diced apple, etc.
  • Baked potato or sweet potato topped with ¼ cup of black bean soup (such as Amy’s Organic Black Bean Vegetable Soup)
  • A small pita pocket (such as Kangaroo brand) stuffed with hummus (such as Cedar’s Original Hommus Tahini, Emerald Valley Kitchen Organic Traditional Hummus, Joseph’s Hommus Tahini, Sabra Classic Hummus, or Tribe Hummus Classic), vegetables, and a few olives.
  • A small apple and a dip made of ¼ cup low-fat plain yogurt mixed with 1 Tbsp of natural peanut butter, 1 tsp of honey, and ¼ tsp of cinnamon
  • Try a “baked” apple made in the microwave – place 1 Tbsp raisins in a bowl and pour some boiling water over them, allow them to soak until plump. Wash an apple and remove most of the core (leave ¼” at the bottom). Place the apple into a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the inside with cinnamon, and fill with drained raisins; pour about a teaspoon of the water that the raisins soaked in over the top of the apple and drizzle with 2 tsp pure maple syrup. Microwave, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes and let cool for 5 minutes before eating.
  • Larabars or KIND bars
  • A frozen whole-grain waffle (such as Kashi brand), toasted, topped with part-skim ricotta cheese and raspberry preserves (such as Polaner All Fruit)
  • Hardboiled eggs drizzled with Sriracha or deviled eggs made by mixing the yolk with a bit of avocado or hummus.
  • 1 Tbsp light cream cheese spread on two graham cracker halves and topped with ¼ cup halved grapes
  • 2 oz of water-packed or vacuum-packed tuna mixed with 2 tsp light mayonnaise and 2 tsp Dijon mustard on top of rye crisps(such as FinnCrisp or RyCrisp) and topped with sliced cucumber
  • ¼ of an avocado, mashed and mixed with a pinch of garlic salt, spread on a slice of toasted 100% whole-wheat bread and topped with tomato slices
  • ½ of a whole grain sandwich thin (such as Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thin) topped with sliced tomato, sliced fresh mushrooms, and reduced-fat mozzarella cheese – broil for 1 to 2 minutes
  • Yogurt parfait made with Greek yogurt (such as Oiko’s Triple Zero), fresh fruit, and ¼ cup cereal (such as Kashi Organic GoLean Clusters Vanilla Pepita, General Mills Total, Nature’s Path Flax Plus Flakes with Cinnamon, Post Grape-Nuts Flakes, or Kellogg’s Raisin Bran) OR mix ½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt with 2 Tbsp pumpkin puree and 1 tsp natural maple syrup.
  • ½ of a bagel thin (such as Thomas’s 100% Whole Wheat Bagel Thin), toasted, topped with lite onion and chive flavored cream cheese (such as Philadelphia Brand) and veggies of your choosing
  • Mix 1 cup blueberries with 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (such as Oiko’s Triple Zero). Drop clusters onto a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet and freeze for at least an hour before eating
  • Make chia seed pudding by mixing 1 can of unsweetened light coconut milk, 1 cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt, 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup, ½ tsp vanilla, and ¼ cup chia seeds. Cover with foil and chill overnight. Top with fruit and cinnamon before eating the next day.
  • A salad made with diced tomato, canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed), fresh basil, a bit of balsamic vinaigrette, and feta