Did you know that 48% of all food and beverages consumed are snacks? There are so many reasons for snacking:
- Nourishment: You’re hungry.
- Optimization: You need a snack before a workout or to fuel an exam.
- Pleasure: It looks good, it’s there, so you eat it!
- Distraction: aka mindless eating
If you want to make the most of your snack choices or snack better, we’ve got the WHY, WHAT, and HOW to choose healthy and satisfying snacks.
Why: We Choose to Snack
Do you ever find yourself snacking when you’re not hungry? You are not alone. We often snack when we aren’t hungry and while this can occasionally be fine, it’s not a healthy habit if we frequently snack without hunger. If you find yourself mindlessly snacking, ask yourself one question. : is it head, stomach, or heart hunger?
Head hunger happens when we smell, hear or see food and choose to eat it. We aren’t hungry, but the environment had an influence. For example, you get chips out for your kiddo and throw a handful into your own mouth. You were not hungry at the moment, but decided to eat anyway – simply because it was there and readily available.
Heart hunger is often called “emotional eating.” Food serves as comfort or a way to cope. You might choose to snack out of emotions or states of mind like boredom, happiness or frustration. While it is ok to sometimes eat out of emotion, doing so all the time is not a healthy way to cope. If you find yourself always eating to cope, addressing heart hunger snacking might be worth the effort.
Stomach hunger is driven by hunger, hunger cues such as feeling hunger growing in your stomach, preoccupation with food or running low on energy. These things give us clues that it’s time for a snack. Letting hunger be our snacking guide is the ideal way to fuel.
What: Foods to Build a Healthy Snack
With snacking making up a potential 40-50% of our daily food, choosing nutrient-dense snacks can support any mental and physical health goals. Choose snacks that are both physically and emotionally satisfying. Aim for snacks that are mostly whole foods (food that has not been ultra processed) like trail mix or yogurt compared to yogurt flavored fruit snacks. Choosing snacks that include protein, produce, and fiber is a winning combination for energy, health and satisfaction. Download our BIG LIST OF SAVORY AND SWEET SNACKS here for examples!
Sample Snack Combinations that Include Protein, Produce & Fiber!
- Apple + string cheese
- Baby carrots + hummus
- Whole wheat bread + peanut butter
- Hardboiled egg + pistachios
- Greek yogurt + granola
- Cottage cheese + berries
How: Mindful Snacking
Snack and Only Snack
Not every snacking opportunity will be a mindful one. But, taking time to enjoy snacks makes it more likely you’ll eat more slowly and avoid overeating. It’s easy to overeat when we’re distracted. Put the phone and work away and give yourself the 10 minutes you deserve.
Pay attention to your hunger cues.
Hunger and fullness cues guide our eating partners. But, only if we pay attention to them! Using a hunger and fullness scale is a simple way to rate and connect with hunger and fullness cues. The goal is to start eating or preparing food when you’re at a “4” and to stop eating when you reach a “6.” If you start eating at a 1 or 2, you’re likely to eat fast, choose less healthy snack options and overeat and find yourself sitting at an 8 or 9 when the snacking (or meal) is done.
Since we’re a snacking nation, small shifts the HOW, WHY and WHATs can make a significant impact on those mini meals. Snack on!