About 40% of us will make a New Year’s Resolution to eat better. As we draw up our game plan to do so, a perfect place to start is to examine the foods we select “in between” meals.  A smart snack choice can fill in nutritional gaps (i.e.: like eating yogurt when we don’t get enough calcium in our day); fuel us for an afternoon workout, or even help us manage our weight by preventing overeating at meals. A satisfying 150 calorie snack at 4:30 pm, might save you 300 calories of mindless snacking before dinner reaches the table.

Snacking (smartly) allows us to maintain even blood sugars over the course of the day which leads to increased productivity, stronger workouts, and a better mood.

The following are characteristics of what I would consider a “smart snacker:”

A SMART SNACKER…

1)   plans ahead of time.  They don’t let the vending machine or co-worker (who was kind enough to leave cookies in the break room) plan their snack.

2)   identifies the satiating snacks.  Which snacks would you say “stick to your ribs?” Which snacks leave you craving more (i.e.: chips)? Which ones fill you up just long enough to be slightly hungry before the next meal? For me…the satiating snack is handful of nuts, not a granola bar. It is different for everyone. Pay attention to those which fill your belly!

3)   chooses whole. Think apple over apple flavored snack bar, or string cheese over cheese crackers.  The fewer the ingredients, the more wholesome and healthier the snack.

4)   eats by hunger, not by the clock.  Just because you always eat a snack at 10 am, does not mean you will always need one.  If you can easily make it to noon without getting too hungry, forgo the snack. Perhaps you can do without the 100-200 calories if you are trying to manage your weight.

IN A SNACK RUT?  

Need new snack ideas? Check out some of my favorite ideas below and also recent 2-minute nutrition tips, called “nutri-bites”. You might just be surprised that your family will ask for a repeat of roasted chickpeas or kale chips!

  1. Hummus Energy Snack. Look for crackers or wraps made with whole grains and fiber. My personal favorite cracker is Ak-Mak & Alvarado Street Bakery Tortillas. Hummus is also a good source of fiber and comes in several varieties like olive, five spice, and garlic. 4 Tablespoons Hummus + 1 Tortilla: ~190 calories
  2. Healthy Mixed Bag. Combine a high fiber cereal, with dried fruit, and a variety of nuts for a high fiber, good fat snack. This snack contains at least 3 food groups! Making your own trail mix leaves out added unhealthy fats and sugars found in store-bought trail mix. 1/3 cup = ~150 calories
  3. Fresh Fruit Parfait. The classic nutritious-and-convenient food can provide you with 25 percent of your daily calcium requirement, protein, fiber and several other necessary vitamins and minerals. Throw some high-fiber cereal in for extra crunch and fiber. 1 cup yogurt + ¼ cup fruit + ¼ cup cereal= ~180 calories
  4. Apple + Peanutty Dip: Mix 1 TBSP peanut butter with a little vanilla yogurt, and tsp of honey.  Perfect dip for pears or apples. 6 ozof yogurt + 1 Tbsp. peanut butter = ~200 calories
  5. Pumpkin pie oatmeal: Combine ¼ cup canned pumpkin with ½ cup dry oats, 1 cup milk or water and ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice.  Microwave for 2 minutes and drizzle a touch of honey and cinnamon for a comforting winter snack. 1 cup cooked oatmeal + pumpkin + honey = ~200 calories 

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.