“Snack food” can be our best friend or worst enemy. Those of you who know me can vouch for the fact I’m eating something every 2-3 hours- its fun and restores my energy, mood and focus almost immediately (if done correctly)! Eating “small frequent meals” is a great way to make sure you don’t eat too much food in one sitting or save the majority of your calories for a certain time of day or night. Both of these habits can lean to weight gain, unstable blood sugar, mood swings/irritability, depressed outlook on life, midday “crash” and abnormal sleep patterns. The good news is that allowing “clean”, mindful snacking to become a part of your everyday routine can transform these symptoms in as quickly as in one week!
Here are two questions I ask myself before I have a snack:
1. What have I eaten so far today? This helps me determine what to choose- assess your day’s intake for protein (chicken, eggs, fish, etc. etc.), healthy carbs (fruits, vegetables, beans, complex grains- quinoa, etc), and beneficial fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil, coconut, etc.) for the day so far, and make choices based on what foods you might be missing.
2. Am I really hungry? Create a “mental” hunger scale in your mind to rule out eating because your bored, stressed, emotional, tired, etc. 1=real hunger (you haven’t eaten in 4-5 hours, you’re ready for a meal), 5= perfectly satisfied after a nice balanced meal, and 10=thanksgiving day stuffed. Snacks should be consumed when you are around a 3 on the hunger scale, and leave you at about a 4. If you’re unsure of your hunger, drink a big glass of water, get up and walk around for 10 minutes, and reassess the situation (dehydration can be mistaken for hunger). Never let yourself go below a 3 or above an 8 on the hunger scale (unless it’s actually Thanksgiving- that is your one exception!).
Here are some key things I look for/avoid when I choose my snacks for the day (who doesn’t love taking a munchie break?!):
– My snacks almost always contains a fruit or vegetable in one form or another (contains fiber- helps slow digestion and keep you feeling full; also offers the body some hydration)
– I avoid anything that comes in a package that is more than 5 ingredients (ie Seaweed Snax are in a package but they have 3 ingredients; almond butter is in a package but it contains: almond butter, and so on and so forth…)
– All I drink throughout the day is water, 2-3 cups of tea/coffee with limited additives, or the occasional cup of unsweetened almond milk. I avoid all artificially sweetened/low calorie/diet/light beverages
– I make sure my snacks I pack for the day are a combination of sweet (fruit), salty (seaweed snacks, unsalted nuts that I add a few shakes of sea salt myself to), crunchy (veggies), savory (hummus), and for me a nip of chocolate…yum!
It takes a bit of work but the benefits of being prepared with healthy snacks overwhelmingly outweigh the hassle it takes to pack them. Here are some of my favorites:
– Carrot/celery sticks dipped in almond butter, hummus, or sesame tahini (a sesame seed butter- so good!)
– Seaweed Snax with avocado slices and tuna if I need some protein
– 2 cups organic popcorn with 2 tsp olive oil and sea salt; in addition have some fresh sliced peppers and hummus
– Hard boiled egg mixed with 1/4 avocado on 10 rice crackers
– Simple Smoothie (made with whey protein, almond milk, stevia, coconut flakes, and 1 cup frozen blueberries- no blender needed, drink like a glass of milk with extra nutrition!)
– 1/2 cup canned organic pumpkin, 1 scoop protein powder, and dash of cinnamon
– Frozen (or fresh) grapes with 8-10 brazil nuts (super tasty, nutrient packed nut!)
– Greek yogurt with stevia, cinnamon, and fresh blueberries
– Hummus with cucumber slices
– Chai tea (brewed strong) blended with 1 scoop protein powder and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk; 1/2 apple on side
– 1/2 grapefruit mixed with 1/4 of an avocado with dash of sea salt
– Add a bit more protein to any of these to help make it a more substantial meal
One more thing…a lot of people ask me if its okay to eat before bed. My answer is pretty simple and can be applied to almost anyone: if its 2-3 hours after you’ve had dinner and you feel hungry again…have a snack! Ask yourself the questions outlined above and follow the guidelines above for any time of day and you’ll be fine. Listening to our bodies is a lost art…separate your emotions, stress from the day, and habitual food routines from your bodies physical needs… begin to trust that your body will tell you when it needs to eat. The key is listening and responding to that enough times in a row to form a new habit 🙂
Get creative, be prepared, and you will feel amazing! Its not about a diet or restricting the foods you love…and it sure isn’t about being perfect all the time…its about being in the mindset that food is powerful and experiencing the fact that it can transform the way you think, feel, and respond to the world.
As always, stay well, eat well, and have a beautiful week!