Sunday, September 28, 2008

Healthy Habits: Get Snackin'

For this edition of Healthy Habits, I thought I would highlight a question I get a lot: What do I eat for snacks? My snacking habits might be a bit of a mystery to you all because I mostly just post meals (and smoothies, of course). My snacks are more spontaneous creations (read: I'm too hungry to make it look pretty for the camera), plus they can be repetitive, so I choose not to post them very often. Nonetheless, I am an avid snacker, and I have developed a few guidelines for smart snacking.

A lot of people the misconception that snacking is "bad." Not so. Eating between meals is an excellent way to keep your energy levels up and to keep your metabolism chugging. For me, it is also a great strategy to fill in nutritional gaps within my diet; food groups that I don't often incorporate into meals can easily become part of a balanced snack. A final advantage of snacking is that it fits easily into a fast-paced schedule. That is, if you're running short on time, you likely don't have time to sit down to a 5-course meal, but you might have a few minutes to spare on a snack.

Although I consume multiple snacks per day, most people seem to be most interested in keeping those mid-afternoon munchies at bay. Thus, I will focus on the ever-popular afternoon nibbles.
My basic formula is:

healthy fat + calcium source (dairy/non-dairy/dairy alternative) + fruit or whole grains

This pattern works for me because:
1) I often lack dairy in my meals, so snacktime is a great occasion to balance out my diet and ensure that I am getting adequate calcium

2) The combination of protein, fat, and healthful carbs (i.e., fiber) keeps me full for a few hours until I am ready to prepare dinner.
3) There are myriad combinations of these food groups! Keeping it interesting is simple.

Speaking of possible snack combinations, here are a few of my favorites:

At Home or In the Office options
-Plain yogurt with nuts and dried fruit

-Greek yogurt with a crumbled snack bar (such as
Clif Z or Mini Clif) and nuts
-Whole grain crackers and cheese, pistachios
-Cottage cheese with ground flax and dried fruit
-Pumpkin Bread in a bowl: plain yogurt with nuts (walnuts recommended), raisins, pumpkin, and cinnamon

On the Go options
-String cheese, small baggie of GORP (Good Ol' Raisins and Peanuts)
-Larabar or Jocolat bar with a to-go carton of soymilk/milk such as
Soy on the Go
-Pretzel sticks with a PB packet (such as Justin's) and a piece of fruit
-Apple or banana with nut butter (if using almond butter, it contains calcium AND healthy fat)
-Trail mix: simply combine your favorite cereal with nuts, dried fruit, and your favorite mix-ins (chocolate chips, anyone?)

Here are a few other examples from the past:

This list is in no way comprehensive but rather a mere sampling of what I like and what works for my current schedule.

I hope that demystifies my snacking style for some of you, and I also hope you all find it useful. Happy snacking:)


Danielle said...

Thanks so much for another wonderful post Caroline! These tips are especially helpful to me now. Like most cultures outside of America, snacking is not big here at all so I've been looking for some ideas for light food combos to keep my hunger at bay between the long lunch to dinner stretch. You're the best :)

Erin at said...

Those are pretty snacks! I like your rule of thumb. It makes sense.
And I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves prunes.

shelby said...

I love clif bars in yogurt! I also like them heated up so they're all gooey =)

Snacks for me aren't very pretty either...they are usually some spontaneous combination I throw together last minute that would not look good pictured!

loveofoats said...

Great snack ideas... I love the GORP!!!! Too cute & sounds yummo :) Love this "healthy habits" post, too!

just me said...

what a great post! i love all your snacks and they look just as pretty/presentable as your meals!

your thought process of getting in missed food groups with snacks is great!

sportsnutritionliving said...

Great process as I often do the ssme thing for snacks... sometims i try to make up for missing food groups. Thanks for some great options.. snacking is def important because I would be ravenous by time dinner came if I did not snack!

VeggieGirl said...

Oooh, I'm joining you for snack time :0)

ChickPea said...

Danielle: I'm so glad you found this post useful. Obviously, the brand names probably won't help you much, but I hope some of the general ideas work for your situation!
Erin: Prunes rock! I love those little individual serving packs--they're so easy to just throw in my bag for snacktime.
Shelby: You're so right--the brownie flavor is especially tasty when heated.
LoveofOats: Can't get much simpler and tastier than GORP!
Just Me: Thanks! I'm glad you liked the post:)
SportsNutritionLiving: I totally agree--the between lunch and dinner stretch is a long one for me!
VeggieGirl: Please do!