What do you do when you get those afternoon munchies? Do you head for the nearest vending machine or raid the cookie jar, or do you reach for something a little more substantial?
Many people try not to snack between meals at all because they’re afraid they’ll derail the progress they’re making toward their wellness goals. That can definitely happen if the snacks are empty calories with no nutritional value. However, if we choose them carefully, snacks can help us make progress.
Healthy snacks can help us in several different ways: they can help keep our blood sugar steady – no wild swings up and down; they can keep us from getting so hungry that we overeat at our next meal; and they can even help us make sure we get all our servings of fruits and vegetables.
When we prepare our snacks ourselves, we have much better control over what and how much we’re eating, and we can eat combinations of foods that are going to keep us satiated until the next meal time.
One good rule of thumb to follow with snacks is to try to eat combinations that provide some carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This helps ensure that the snack gives us some of those benefits we talked about earlier.
I thought I’d share a few of my favorite snack ideas with you.
Healthy Snack Ideas:
- Vegetables with hummus
- Veggies with ranch dip – you can make your own healthier version by mixing 1 Tablespoon of ranch dressing mix (such as Hidden Valley Ranch) into 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt.
- Green smoothie
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Chocolate milk
- Greek yogurt with granola (click here for an easy granola recipe) and/or fruit; or with fruit and nuts
- Mixed nuts
- Trail mix – Trail mix is great if you’re careful about what’s in it and how much you eat. Remember that nuts, although very healthy, are also very calorie-dense, which means we have to watch serving sizes. It’s easy to make your own so you can control the amount of sugar you get – just mix your choice of nuts with your choice of dried fruit, and if you need a little chocolate, you could throw in a few dark chocolate chips or M&Ms (just make sure there are a lot more nuts than M&Ms).
- Cheese and fruit (about an ounce of cheese is considered a serving). You can also add a few multi-grain crackers to give you some whole grains.
- Celery and peanut butter
- Hard-boiled egg
- Layered Mediterranean Dip with whole-grain pita and/or veggies
- Kale chips with the ranch dip mentioned above
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Dark chocolate fruit and nut clusters – If you just need to have that ‘chocolate fix’ sometimes, these are a great way to have a little chocolate and give it a nutritional boost. They’re really easy to make – just melt dark chocolate chips (in the microwave or using the double-boiler method – I use a stainless-steel bowl over a pan of water). Once your chips are melted, stir in 1 cup of dried fruit (chopped if you’re using larger pieces of fruit) and 2 cups of nuts. Drop this mixture by the Tablespoonful onto parchment paper and let them cool. Again, serving size is important, but one cluster can satisfy your sweet tooth and give you some nutritional value as well.
These are just a few ideas for snacks that can help us feel full, keep that ‘afternoon slump’ at bay, and move us closer to our wellness goals.
I’m sure you have lots more ideas – what are your favorite healthy snacks? Please share!