Let’s be real: During quarantine, some of us developed an unhealthy relationship with the snacks in our pantries. Maybe you’ve indulged in more chips, popcorn, and ice cream in the past year than you care to admit.
But blaming snacks for weight gain or sluggishness isn’t the answer. While 24/7 access to food hasn’t been kind to some of our waistlines, snacking isn’t necessarily the culprit. It’s the quality of snacks that matters.
The Benefits of Snacking
First off, we need to address a myth that’s still floating around out there: No, you do NOT need to eat three square meals a day.
Blasphemous, we know. The truth is, the current three-meal-a-day “rule” is a byproduct of historical changes in cultural values, technology, and workday structure. The frequency of meals and snacks is far less important than the components of those meals and snacks.
There are plenty of pros to snacking. Snacks prevent you from getting so starved that’ll you’ll indulge any craving that pops into your head. They provide an energy boost for a workout or work assignment. And for those of us with easily upset stomachs, smaller snacks throughout the day can feel more digestible.
Bottom line? Don’t be afraid to experiment with your snacking schedule to see what works best for you.
Tips for Healthy Snacking
OK, so if only some snacks are bad for us, how do we make better choices? Here are a few healthy midday munching habits.
1. Go for Texture Over Taste
Sometimes we want sugar and salt overload. But more often than not, we’re seeking a specific sensory experience with our snacks, not just a certain taste. Why else would we put chips on sandwiches or choose chocolate cake over chocolate froyo?
The next time you’re feeling snacky, consider your options. Do you really need an entire bag of peanut butter pretzels, or will crunchy celery with a dab of peanut butter work just as well? Think yogurt instead of pudding. Berries instead of fruit snacks. Fruit smoothies and protein shakes instead of milkshakes.
Need some convenient snack substitutes? Try these:
- Cookie dough, cookie butter, or peanut butter → Peanut Butter Bliss Snack Bites
- Chips or crackers → Whey Thins™ or Harvest Thins™
- Chocolate candy bar → IsaDelight® Super-Chocolate
- Oatmeal cookies → Nature Oat Bakes™
2. Tone Down the Sugar
Our bodies are amazing at adapting. If you’ve ever tried to cut carbs for more than a few weeks, you’ll know this to be true: Your tastes can change. Before you know it, that once-delicious dessert starts to make you feel sick instead of hitting the spot.
Keep in mind that sugar is addictive and that excess consumption can lead to poor health. That means every time you bite into a donut or sip on sweetened coffee, you’re adding fuel to the fire. If you must have sugar, choose a fibrous fruit or vegetable that’ll keep you full for longer.
3. Investigate the Source of Your Cravings
Intuitive eating is a beneficial concept, but it has its limitations. It’s all too easy to get our wires crossed when interpreting hunger signals. For instance, does your body really need the three-cheese pizza, or are you simply low on good fats?
Once you get the nutrients your body is actually searching for, you may find that your unhealthy snack cravings disappear.
4. Trick Your Appetite
Hunger pangs are complicated. In fact, you may be thirsty, not hungry at all. Try sipping on water, tea, or a carbonated beverage like BĒA™ Sparkling Energy Drink the next time you feel your tummy grumbling.
If hydration doesn’t work, that means you’re truly hungry. Pick a protein- or fiber-filled food to stave off unwanted cravings instead of going for gas station goodies.
5. Leave Empty Calories Out of Your Cart
You can’t eat unhealthy snacks if you don’t have them readily available. Sometimes it really is that simple.
Don’t go to the grocery store hungry. When you’re shopping, try a new cereal or granola from the health section instead of sticking to your usual brand. And if you really are willing to make the walk or drive to the store at 9 p.m. for a slice of cake … maybe — just maybe — you earned that snack after all.