You know that healthy snacks are important for your family, especially if you have growing kids who often seem like they're trying to eat their way through your entire kitchen. Some parents, however, find themselves wondering if they're getting this healthy snacking thing right or if, unfortunately, they're getting it all wrong. What is healthy snacking, anyway? And what are healthy snacks? It's time to learn the basics of healthy snacking so that you can stock your pantry for yourself and your family.
Where to Start?
Healthy snacks, as a simple definition, are those that have health-boosting ingredients that are good for your body. Healthy snacks are designed to:
- Boost energy and give you the fuel you need to keep going through your day without creating a frustrating sugar crash
- Provide healthy fuel
- Help keep blood sugar levels even throughout the day, preventing highs and lows
- Offer great nutrition, even when you aren't necessarily eating healthy at every meal
If you're following a specific type of diet, your snacks need to fit with the rest of your plans. And if you're not, you still want to take several things into consideration as you're choosing healthy snacks for your family and your kids. Here are a few guidelines:
1. Opt for low- or no-sugar options. Sugar can actually decrease the ability of immune cells to fight off illness--which is the last thing you want for you or your kids! Consuming less sugar is a great way to help make all of you overall healthier.
2. Control your portions. Pay attention to portion sizes when you're snacking. Snacks should stay around the 300-400 calorie range per day for most women, though it's important to note that the size of your snacks and your caloric needs will vary based on your age, weight, activity level, and other factors.
3. Great snacks combine light foods with a small dose of healthy fats. This might, for example, include celery sticks and peanut butter (with raisins, if you want to create that fun "ants on a log" snack you remember from your childhood) or apples with almond butter.
4. Make sure your snack fits your cravings. That doesn't mean that if you're craving chocolate, you should go binge-eat bite-size candy bars after the holidays. It does mean, however, that you should listen to your body. Often, cravings are a message about what your body needs--and listening to them can help you feel full and satisfied.
How Do You Choose the Right Snack?
Preparing ahead of time is critical. If you wait until you're starting to get hungry, you'll end up snacking on whatever comes to hand first--and that can mean sugar highs and lows, unhealthy eating patterns, weight gain, and low energy levels. Instead, follow these steps to make sure that you're choosing the right snacks for you.
Step 1: Plan ahead: Create a list of healthy snacks that you enjoy. If there's prep work involved--slicing fruit or cheese, for example--see how much of that prep work you can accomplish ahead of time. This will put you in a better position to reach into the fridge or cabinet and grab your preferred snack.
Step 2: Do your research. Prepackaged snacks get a bad rap on many internet boards, but they aren't necessarily the devil! In many cases, prepackaged snacks can offer a healthy alternative to the candy bar or chips you would otherwise grab. Just do your research: take the time to read labels and understand what's in your food.
Step 3: Offer yourself variety. There are some people who can eat the same thing every single day and be content. If you know that you're not one of those people, however, provide yourself with some variety! Have different healthy snack options so that you know you have plenty of choices when you head to the snack cabinet.
Step 4: Remember that snacks don't have to be sweet. It's hard to break the habit of reaching for a cookie or cupcake, but remembering that snacks are not necessarily sweet can make it easier to snack healthy.
Step 5: Keep a few treats on hand. It's okay to have a treat every once in a while! In fact, letting yourself have the occasional treat can make it easier to stick with your healthy eating resolutions the rest of the time, especially if you're sticking with your overall healthy eating guidelines.
Healthy Snack Ideas
Are you stuck for ideas on healthy snacks that will allow you to keep your energy consistent and get you through the day? Try some of these ideas:
- Trail mix with dried seeds, fruits, and nuts (pay attention to your dried fruits: some varieties contain more sugar than others)
- Peanut butter and grapes or cherries, rather than jelly, on a sandwich
- Hard boiled eggs with raisins--you can remove the yoke for a lower-calorie snack
- Hummus and carrots
- Apple slices with almond butter or peanut butter
- Bobo's Oat Bites or Bobo's Oat Bars
- Yogurt and granola
- Air popped popcorn
- Snap peas
- Fruit, including bananas, grapes, apples, and oranges
Learning to snack healthy, and understanding what are healthy snacks is a big step in your overall health and wellness. By utilizing these tips and developing healthier snacking habits, you can watch your health soar while still enjoying many of the great foods you love. Snacking smart isn't about deprivation. Rather, it's about learning to read your hunger cues and offer your body what it really needs.