Snacks sometimes get a bad rap. They stand accused of contributing to caloric overconsumption, encouraging us to consume empty calories or ruining our appetite at mealtimes. Is any of this really true?
When snacking is planned and includes good food choices, snacks can have several positive effects on our diet. They can help us meet our daily nutrient needs, or better manage our meals by helping us control hunger between meals. Being famished right before mealtime encourages us to overeat and eat too quickly which, in turn, makes digestion slower and more difficult. Snacking can help prevent this from happening.
Here are the basic principles of smarter snacking:
1- Have a snack only when you feel hungry. You should never force yourself to have a snack or eat because you’re bored.
2- Eating smaller portions at mealtimes will enable you to have a snack between meals, because you’re more likely to really need an extra bite. The advantage is that you are less likely to overeat when you’re consuming small portions.
3- Favour nutritionally dense foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein. Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and dairy products are all very good snack choices.
4- Don’t eat snacks or meals when distracted (shut off the television, stay away from the computer, put away your cellphone or newspaper).
5- Adjust the quantity and energy content of the food you eat to your hunger level and the amount of time before your next meal. Consider eating some fruit if you feel a bit peckish 45 minutes before a meal. If you’re quite hungry two hours before dinner, consider eating some vegetables with nuts.
A few healthy snack ideas…
- For the office: fruit compote with no added sugar, milk drinking box, nuts, small homemade muffin, healthy granola bar, whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, fresh fruit and plain popcorn.
- For stay-at-home parents: homemade fruit salad, hummus or bean dip, toasted wholewheat pita triangles, probiotic yogurt, glass of milk and homemade banana bread, crudités and yogurt dip.