I love snacking and have always been a snacker! When I was younger, I would look forward to my afternoon snacks, which would usually consist of goldfish crackers while watching "Little House on the Prarie." (Loved that show!) Throughout the recent years, I have found that my nostalgic love of snacking still rings strong and true. I would much rather snack throughout the day than have 3 square meals a day. But, since most snack foods tend to be processed, high in salt and sugar, and not the healthiest of options, snacking has gotten a bad reputation. The action of snacking also stimulates us to eat more by triggering that mindless "put food in mouth, repeat, repeat, repeat" action, which makes it easy to ignore our satiety signals (aka your brain screaming "I am full so stop feeding me!!!") Makes you almost feel like a crazy cooke monster, huh??
I read an interesting article this week entitled "Half of eating occasions are snacks." Here is the link below!
A new report by the Hartman group states that more and more people are eating on the go, snacking, and replacing traditional meals with more snack foods. The authors stated that people are eating "on a whim" and "according to cravings," making them more likely to go through the drive thru, stop at a grocery store, or pick up a yummy baked good from the local bakery on their way home from work, school, or any function. The report also stated that half the time, people eat alone, which means that smaller portions are even more necessary. The report states that these snacks have become replaced meals, and some people are even starting to snack at home when they are too tired to make a full course, nutritionally balanced meal.
I am a healthy eater, but also love to snack. I completely understand the need to eat something on your way home, or the feeling of being too exhausted to cook a full meal after a long day at work. But, there are some healthy ways to prevent a snack attack that leads to an all day eating fest! Planning and prepping your meals and snacks are the key to establishing healthy meal and snacking patterns, leading to a happier and healthier life! Check a few posts back if you need some meal planning ideas, and keep reading for some snacking tips!
Since I get off work at 5:45pm, have a 45-50 minute commute home, I know that I will get hungry on my drive. I always make sure to either pack a quest bar or some nuts for my drive home.
The combination of nuts with either veggies or fruit is also very satisfying and filling!
In my experience, the key to being a healthy snacker is to PLAN your snacks. Most people plan meals, but simply leave the snacks up the chance. This usually leads to overeating snack foods such as chips, popcorn, candy, etc. The reason why these foods are SO easy to overeat is that they are full of sugar and very devoid of nutrition, which leads to these foods having addictive qualities. Think about it, have you ever eaten 4 plates of steak or grilled chicken? Your body just screams NO and physically doesn't let you because of all the nutrition and protein in these foods. But, have you ever polished off 4 baskets of chips and salsa without even thinking about it?? Be honest, because even I can answer that question with a resounding YES! As delicious as some of these snack foods are, they have no internal mechanisms that make us say STOP EATING. Most snack foods do not contain adequate protein to keep us full and do what snacks are intended to do: keep us full enough till our next meal. Which is why, I recommend, redefining the snack!
1.) MINI-MEALS: A snack should really be more of a mini-meal. Think of your snack as a protein, veggies, and some healthy fats. If you have a hard-boiled egg, carrots, and a 1/4 cup of hummus, nuts, or guacamole, I guarantee that you will feel satisfied and full, without feeling the need to have a second, third, or fourth portion of this "snack" or mini-meal. Another idea is 2 oz grilled chicken, some snap peas or mini bell peppers, and a string cheese. This meal would fill you up without stuffing you up, and will keep your energy levels steady for a few hours instead of leaving you hungry and wanting more.
2.) QUICK STOP PROTEIN: When it comes to stopping on the way home for a snack, most people turn to Starbucks, fast food joints, or ice cream parlors. However, in the same amount of time it takes for you to pull into one of these food establishments, it would take the same amount of time to stop at a nearby grocery store with a prepared foods section and pick up a rotisserie chicken. Chicken has good protein, is a fast snack option that you can leave in your fridge at work, and can even be taken home to your family for a quick dinner. Just whip up a salad or some steamed veggies (keep a few bags of frozen veggies on hand for emergencies such as these!) and you've got yourself a nice protein+veggies meal! You can even boil cook up some sweet potatoes or some brown rice as a carbohydrate side as well.
The more our world changes and gets busier, the more our daily habits change as well. As this article has shown, the "traditional" meal is taking a back seat to snacking and eating on the go. Even though we all have busy schedules, don't let health and nutrition take a back seat as well! Use some of these tips, or create your own protein, veggie, and healthy fat meals that will help you stay full and resist the need for salty or sugary snacks. By packing each meal with as many nutrient-dense foods as possible, you will leave your body and brain satisfied and going strong throughout the day, preventing the overeating and mindless snacking that so often occurs when you let yourself go hungry! So go ahead, redefine your snacks, and see how much better your moods, energy, and overall health will be!