This month we're pleased to welcome Katie Morford as part of our January Reset Challenge! Katie is a San Francisco-based cookbook author and registered dietitian who writes the blog Mom’s Kitchen Handbook. She'll chat healthy snacks with us today!
When I was a kid, between-meal snacking was sort of frowned upon. The idea of “three square meals’ was the order of the day. And even though today’s sky-rocketing snack habits has given rise to the term “generation graze,” the negative connotation around snacking still lingers.
The truth is, between-meal snacking can have positive upsides. As a dietitian, I’m pro-snack and enjoy them myself on the daily. Snacks can provide energy, curb hunger, improve mood, regulate blood sugar, fuel the brain, and may support a healthy weight. That said, it’s important to consider the amount, frequency, and nutritional quality of your snack choices.
Tips for Healthy Snacking!
Part of the reason snacking has an unfavorable reputation is because “snack foods” are considered things like nacho cheese chips and cream-filled cakes, sometimes washed down with a 16-ounce soda. In other words, empty calories that may fill you up but don’t actually fuel you. That’s not to say that dipping into a Doritos bag on occasion isn’t okay, but for everyday snacking, you want to aim higher.
The number one reason to settle on a snack is because you’re hungry and your body is talking to you. It’s wise to honor those inner signals. Here are a few other suggestions around snacks:
- Aim for Nutrient Density: This means foods that pack maximum nutrition into every bite (the polar opposite of empty calories). For example, if you satisfy a craving for salty, crunchy foods with a handful of almonds rather than a bag of chips, you’ll get fiber, folate, protein, and healthy fats in the bargain.
- Try Produce Plus Protein: I love the tip from my friend and fellow dietitian Danielle Omar to snack on a combo of produce plus protein. It’s a great formula that includes such pairings as hummus and carrots, cheese and pear, turkey slices wrapped around cucumber spears, and peanut butter and apples.
- Keep Tabs on Portion: Snacks are meant to be a bridge between meals. The idea is to eat enough to avoid the hangry, but not so much that you have no appetite for planned meals.
- Find Your Rhythm: There’s no “right” formula for snacks and meals. It’s about tuning into your own personal appetite and energy level to determine when a snack is called for.
- Stop and Think: When your stomach starts to grumble, pause and ask yourself, “Am I hungry enough for a meal? Or do I just need a snack?”
- Normalize Hunger: It’s ok to be hungry. That natural ebb and flow of hunger, satiety, hunger is normal. That said, don’t let yourself get so famished that you’re irritable with less bandwidth to make healthful choices. I’m far more likely to order a cheese pizza than make myself a salad when I get to that point.
“Snack Healthy” Challenge
To help you build your healthy snacking repertoire, we’re making it the focus of this week’s challenge. When the hangries hit, try making “produce plus protein” your snack of choice. Any combination of fruits or vegetables along with a protein-rich food will do.
And yes, of course there's a prize for next week's challenge! We'll announce it over on our January Reset Challenge Facebook group and Instagram at the beginning of the week, so stay tuned. If you aren't on social media, don't worry! Everyone that's signed up for the challenge is automatically entered to win, but you will get an additional entry for each photo you share of your healthy snack. Be sure to use the hashtag #simplyresetsnack so we can follow along!