Snacking 101

I’ve been writing and thinking about healthy snacking a lot lately. This is partly because the summer is just a “snacky” time, as long road trips and full days outdoors encourage snacking (plus the heat usually zaps our appetite for big meals). Healthy snacking sounds like an oxymoron, but the reality is snacking can be a good thing. I am finding more and more, however, that people just don’t know how to snack.

Snacking is not just a “kid thing” or something only parents should be concerned about. Snacking is essential for anyone who wants to reach and maintain an ideal weight, sustain energy to get through a busy day, boost the nutritional quality of their diet and generally stay in control. Possibly then, it’s for you too?

I have written before that we don’t do enough meal planning. Relatively speaking, we do just about no snack planning. For most of us, our snacks are what we pick the moment we are hungry with no concern for how it fits into our (hopefully) healthy day. The result is usually a snack that adds calories to our day but doesn’t benefit us in any way.

Your first lesson in “snacking 101” is to view your snack as a necessary and purposeful bridge between your meals. I like to think a proper snack not only sustains you, but also replaces calories from your meals. In other words, if your goal is to consume 1800 calories a day, then you would have 500 calorie meals and divide the remaining 300 calories among 2-3 snacks. Knowing how many calories you are aiming for, however, is only one part of the equation.

Raw Whole Almonds = 3 Guiding Stars
Raw Whole Almonds = 3 Guiding Stars

There are many no-good, unhelpful pre-packaged snacks out there. These snacks are unhelpful because they are not created to have any of the qualities I just mentioned.  For one, they tend to only help with immediate desire for something sweet, salty or crunchy. For example, 100 calorie snack packs may be nicely portioned and look like a good choice. A serving of Oreo-like cookies, however, is highly unlikely to sustain you. You may be thinking, “Yes, but it is better than any other option in the vending machine,” and yes, this is may be true. But if you settled for a serving of almonds (three Guiding Stars), you will probably be way more satisfied and not “I could eat my cabinets” hungry when you get home.

I was recently serving samples of hearty (and “helpful”) Kashi Spiced Pumpkin and Flax granola bars (one Guiding Star) in store to customers. These bars, which offer 5 grams of heart healthy fat, 6 grams of protein and a serving of carbohydrate, are perfectly well rounded and only 170 calories.  However, in this calorie conscious world we find ourselves in, so many people were completely intimidated by the calories and as a result  were missing out on how the granola bar was going to satisfy not only their hunger pangs, but be healthy as well (little do they know how many foods they unknowing eat with way more calories). I believe I helped some of them understand and see it my way that day and hopefully I’ve helped you understand a bit more about the benefits of healthy snacking…

If so, congratulations: you’ve passed snacking 101.