by Stephanie Bouquet, MS, RD | September 22nd, 2016
To snack or not to snack? That is a question I ask myself every afternoon. The body provides physical signals (like a growling stomach or a headache) if fuel is needed, but it can also provide the desire to eat for reasons other than true hunger. It can be very challenging to differentiate between the two scenarios. To avoid an expanding waistline or late afternoon energy lulls, here are a few tips for smart snacking:
The body likes consistency. Foods we consume raise our blood sugar level in approximately a four hour bell shape curve. Waiting longer than that to refuel, causes your blood sugar to drop too low and extreme hunger can lead to “less than optimal” food choices. For example, if lunch time is at noon, then suffice it to say, a 4:00pm dinner meal may not be the most realistic plan. When meal times are delayed, a snack is appropriate. To avoid over consumption, be careful to have a planned snack time instead of “grazing” your way between meals.
Not all foods are created equal when it comes to snacking. The goal is to make sure a snack contains fiber rich foods. Carbohydrates are the fuel our body needs for energy and fiber is the one type we can’t fully digest. Fiber slows down how quickly food travels through the body and keeps the tummy full longer. Hands down, vegetables are one of the best fiber rich snacks. Raw vegetables (such as celery sticks or broccoli florets) are quick and portable providing that crunchiness most like. For a true snack food feeling, try roasting beet or radish slices to nosh away on vegetable “chips”. It’s also reasonable to heat up vegetable leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.
It’s important to pair fiber rich carbohydrates with a form of protein for best blood sugar results. Combining raw or cooked vegetables with healthy proteins like nuts or nut butters, hard boiled eggs, soybeans (edamame) or lowfat cheese is that balance the body will need. My snacking secret is to make a batch of a vegetable based soup at the start of each week and portion it out into single serve containers for reheating at my office. The soup’s warm liquid also contributes to feelings of fullness. Josie’s Chard Pesto and Chicken Chickpea Soup is a perfect combination of fiber rich vegetables and hearty protein to keep me going all afternoon long.
Go ahead and have a snack! Snacks are “mini feedings” that are necessary when meal times are far apart. Watch portion sizes and limit frequency to no more than 2 times throughout the day.