Making Smart Choices When Snacking

Snacking gets a bad reputation from the health industry sometimes, but that really should not be the case. I think most of us understand that eating ice cream and cookies right before we go to bed is not productive towards an overall healthy lifestyle. However, snacks absolutely do have a place in a healthy lifestyle and can be great when worked in properly. Snacking can be a great tool to reduce hunger between meals, improve energy levels, and keep meal portions in check. There are three key factors to focus on for healthy snacking: when you are snacking, what you are snacking on, and how much you are having for your snack.


When Are You Snacking?

From my experience, people do not think about when they eat their snacks, they just eat whenever they are hungry. Often people have snacks late in the evening, which is usually is not the best time since there will be little time to work off those extra calories. This is especially a problem when trying to watch your weight. It is generally best to fit a healthier snack earlier in the day while most people are more active. It also can help to cut back on the urge to snack late at night.


What Are You Snacking On?

Anything can technically be eaten throughout your day as a snack. Picking the better available options is going to help you improve your overall health. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, granola, and hummus are all great options. Generally, snacks high in protein and fiber will keep you satisfied and satiated throughout the day. A snack of complex carbohydrates before physical activity can be appropriate to make sure you have the energy for your exercise. In contrast, snacks like crackers, most granola/protein bars (often glorified candy bars), and dried fruits loaded with sugar are foods some people may perceive as a good choice.


How Much Are you Snacking On?

Snacking a little is alright, but what if I told you portion size is important for higher quality snacks as well? I am a big fan of snacking on nuts because they are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Remember that both fats, saturated and unsaturated, are fairly high in calories. One gram of fat is nine calories, while a gram of carbohydrates or protein is just four calories. This means the calories can rack up quickly when eating nuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, or to a lesser extent, hummus. Be mindful of the appropriate portion size on the label if you are trying to watch your weight. For items such as chips, ice cream, and pretzels, try using a smaller bowl to decrease the size of your portions.


Snacking is absolutely part of a healthy diet but it is important to do it intelligently. Try working in small snacks throughout the day to see what exactly works best for you. Remember, the more active you are, the more appropriate it is to work in more snacking. It will help keep your energy up, your hunger low, and more satisfied throughout your day.



CHES, ACE Health Coach, AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant


Understanding Non-Meat Protein Sources

One misconception I hear from time to time is that you have to eat meat in order to get a proper intake of daily protein. While meat products do have all the amino acids to make a “complete” protein, they are not the only choice. There are several non-meat options available but there is a trick to getting the most bang for your buck when eating your non-meat proteins.


Proteins are made from 20 different types of amino acids. Thankfully, your body naturally produces 11 of those amino acids. The nine amino acids that the body does not naturally produce are called essential amino acids. They are “essential” because it is essential that you eat them. These nine essential amino acids are important for several reasons, such as fighting off infection, producing healthy skin, breaking down fat, and developing proper brain function.


There is debate whether there is a need to combine non-meat protein sources in order to receive the correct amount of all nine essential amino acids. This theory is known as “complimentary proteins” and deals with combining non-meat sources of protein. Some examples are pairing beans (legume) with rice (grain), peanut butter (legume) and wheat bread (grain), and cereal (grain) with milk (dairy). While some argue it is not absolutely necessary to make these combinations, you will intake all nine essential amino acids if you do.


Non-meat sources of protein have different amounts of protein in them. Some of the highest protein options come from dairy products like cheese, yogurt, or milk. However, there are a variety of non-meat foods you can eat in order to increase protein intake, including almonds, walnuts, green peas, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, spinach, artichokes, chickpeas (hummus), soy products, oatmeal, quinoa, lentils, brown rice, and black beans.


There are also protein powders that can be derived from some of the food items I listed above. The most common protein source in a protein powder is whey, which comes from milk. There are also protein powders available with soy protein, pea protein, and brown rice protein. Whey protein will always have the most saturated fat because it is derived from an animal source. Always be mindful of the sugar content of protein powder as well. Many people want their protein powder to taste good, but make sure it is not a glorified chocolate/vanilla/ strawberry milkshake.


There are many ways in which you can acquire your protein intake through a variety of different types of food. This does not mean you cannot ever have meat, but do realize it is not the only source in which you can receive appropriate amounts of protein.



CHES, ACE Health Coach, AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant