We can finally get outdoors again and our lives are packed with a full day of adventure — but the freedom of the open air and excitement of a packed day can derail healthy food choices. Far too often, our go-to fix is a quick but (less) healthy bite from a vending machine, fast food, or convenience store, which is where snacking gets a bad rap. So what’s a busy serial snacker to do?
A little planning will help you trade in chips and cookies for more nutritious options. Research shows that munching on a balanced snack — one with a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates (hello fiber), and healthy fats — is an excellent way to stabilize blood sugar and stave off hunger that would otherwise send you reaching for processed high sugar and high-salt snacks, which leave you feeling hungry soon after.
Planning means keeping your pantry, purse, or backpack well stocked which helps you avoid frantic snacking decisions when you’re hangry. Prepare and pack your snacks for a few days at a time so you can grab and go when you’re in a rush. And for you meal-prep procrastinators out there, don’t worry: we’ve got you covered too.
Make it whole. Foods that are in their natural form or are lightly processed will keep you full for longer. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and eggs are great places to start and you can build from there.
Choose a power combo of protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Aim for at least two of the three in any snack. That might mean pairing an apple (fiber) with nut butter (fat with a little protein) or hummus (protein and a little fat) with vegetables (fiber) or whole-grain crackers (also fiber). Other easy on-the-go options include nuts with dried fruit, a hard-boiled egg with some fruit or vegetables, or homemade energy bites.
When picking packaged, use the same principles. Let’s be real. Grabbing something in a package is the quickest and simplest option. However, be wary of any health claims and instead look at the ingredients. Choose items that are mostly whole food-based, such as dried chickpeas, beet or kale chips, or whole-grain crackers. Pair these with something that has protein and fat, like hummus or cheese. Energy or protein bars can also be a great option, but look for ones with minimal or no added sugars.
Think beyond typical “snack” foods. Have a small amount of leftovers that aren’t enough for a meal? Why not make it a snack that requires zero preparation beyond putting it in a container? When you think beyond snack foods, you’re more likely to put something nutritious on your plate. Some of our favorite out-of-the box combinations include roasted sweet potatoes with nut butter, a three-bean-and-vegetable salad, avocado slices with salsa, or half a vegetable and hummus sandwich.
If you’re finding yourself reaching for more than one snack between meals, it may be that your regular meals need to be more filling. The key to healthy snacking is to listen to your hunger cues. Although snacking is perfectly healthy and a great way to hold off hunger, it can easily become a habit out of necessity. So bottom line — make a plan to snack smart!