If you’re struggling to fight off winter weight gain with only healthy meals and exercise, you might be overlooking an important piece of the puzzle. How do you snack? Many people know how to eat a well-rounded meal but not necessarily a well-rounded snack.
Consistent, healthy snacking allows you to manage hunger throughout the day. Choosing the right snack will help keep those hunger pangs away while increasing your overall nutrient intake – and it will stop you from polishing off an entire sleeve of Oreos before you realize what’s happening. As a general rule of thumb, keep your snacks between 100 and 200 calories (with a little wiggle room depending on what else you eat throughout the day.)
To get the most out of your snacks, try to combine at least two food groups together when you grab a bite. As dietitians, we often encourage eating every 3-4 hours, and snacks are a great way to fill those gaps between meals. Here are some ideas using popcorn, vegetables, nuts, and fruit to help you get the most out of your midday munchies!
Popcorn is full of heart-healthy fiber and whole grains to keep your stomach satisfied. Like many other unprocessed foods, plain, air-popped popcorn is low in calories and fat. Generally, a 1 cup serving of popcorn provides 30 calories and 1 gram of fiber.
Recently, popcorn has gotten a lot of attention because of the potential cancer risk caused by the chemicals used in popcorn bags. While much research still needs to be done to verify these claims, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Consider this method of popping your own popcorn with a homemade bag – it’s easy, affordable, and fun! You can also avoid popcorn bag chemicals by popping your kernels on a stove top. Jazz it up by adding low-fat grated cheese, seasonings (cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder), or cooking it with olive oil or unsalted butter.
Homemade Microwave Popcorn
1/4 cup unpopped popcorn
Seasonings or salt to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 brown paper bag (lunch size)
Place popcorn in paper bag and fold over top of bag to seal. Place in microwave upright. Microwave on high for 2 ½ -3 minutes or until there is 2-3 seconds between pops. Season as desired.
Vegetables are a simple, delicious, and healthy snack. Packed with nutrients and essential vitamins, veggies also boast a low calorie count. Pairing vegetables with a protein-packed dip, such as hummus or ranch-flavored Greek yogurt, will give you even more bang for your bite. The dips will provide protein to hold you over until your next meal, while the vegetables will help you reach your goal of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Try making your own ranch dip with the recipe below!
Homemade Healthy Ranch Dip
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp dill weed
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
2tsp dry onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Thin dip as needed using milk, olive oil, or apple cider vinegar.
Nuts are protein-packed and great for people on the go. Because they don’t bruise easily,spoil quickly, or require refrigeration, you can easily stash a pack of nuts in your bag or car for a quick bite. Nuts can also be paired with dried fruit to make a delicious trail mix. Look for unsalted or lightly salted varieties, and stay away from sugary varieties. Keep in mind that the portion size for nuts is about ¼ cup or 1 oz, about a small handful.
Like vegetables, snacking on fruit adds a nutritional punch to your day. Fruits such as clementines, bananas, apples, or low-sugar fruit cups transport easily, too. While fruits are great on their own, mixing them with other nutritious foods can help to fill you up. Nut butters make apples and bananas more satisfying, and fruits such as berries taste great added in yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal. Try to stick with whole fruits for snacks, as juices can be higher in sugar.
As you see, snack options are endless! They can also be easily adjusted according to your preferences and what you have on hand. Check out last year’s post about Snacking Through a Slump for even more ideas.
Hopefully, these resources can help you whip up a nutritious, filling snack that will keep you out of that bag of chips! Remember, portion size is always key to maintaining a healthy weight. Happy snacking!