Snacking sometimes gets a bad reputation, but it can be beneficial to our health if done well. Snacks provide additional opportunities for us to consume needed nutrients as well as to enjoy fun foods and stave off excess hunger between meals.

Snacking can be healthy

Snacking itself is not inherently healthy or unhealthy – it’s more so the types of foods and portion sizes that we choose that determine its impact on us. When we choose nutrient-dense foods and include a source of protein or healthy fats in our snacks, they can be a great tool to help us consume the nutrients we need as well as prevent excess hunger and overeating at meals.

5 tips for healthy snacking

1. Keep healthy options on hand.

A well-stocked pantry and fridge means you’ll have the snacks you’d like to eat ready to go when you want them. You may want to stock some options that don’t require refrigeration that you can take with you in a purse, bag, etc. if you think you’ll need or want a snack on the go. Some of my snacking staples include:

  • Whole grain crackers (triscuits, wheat thins, wasa crisps)
  • Fruit (apples, bananas, berries, etc.)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut and seed butters
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Roasted chickpeas (biena makes lots of good flavors)
  • String cheese
  • Veggies (baby carrots, mini peppers, grape tomatoes, etc.)
  • Hummus

2. Include protein and/or healthy fats.

Pairing a source of carbohydrates (e.g. crackers) with a source of protein and/or healthy fats (such as hummus or string cheese) can help your snack satisfy you more easily and stick with you for longer. One reason this occurs is because protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates, so they literally stay in your stomach for longer. Adding protein and fats to a carbohydrate-containing snack also lowers its glycemic load, resulting in less sharp blood sugar spikes and more stable energy levels. A “balanced” snack is one that includes at least 2 out of the 3 main macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat).

Some delicious and balanced snack combinations include:

  • Popcorn with a handful of trail mix
  • String cheese and an orange
  • Apple slices with almond butter
  • Carrots and celery with hummus
  • Berries and greek yogurt

3. Incorporate a source of fiber.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant foods that our bodies can’t digest, so it slows digestion like protein and healthy fats do. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans are some examples of foods that are rich in fiber. When we include fiber in our snacks, it helps our snacks to satisfy us and also provides many other health benefits, such as aiding in digestive function and gut health.

Examples of fiber-rich foods to add to snacks:

  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Avocado
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Hummus

These chocolate almond butter stuffed dates are an example of a nutritious and balanced snack that doubles as dessert!

4. Make your snacks colorful.

Foods that are naturally deep in color (think blueberries, beets, snap peas, carrots, etc.) are also rich in plant compounds called polyphenols. These compounds are antioxidant-rich and so beneficial for total-body health – research suggests that they may reduce the risk of age-related diseases, boost brain function, and more. They also provide essential vitamins and minerals that you may not get enough of if you’re not eating plenty of fruits and vegetables at meals, so snacks provide another good opportunity to include these health-promoting foods.

5. Slow your eating pace when possible.

When we eat more slowly, we are often better able to notice when we are feeling satisfied. At meals and snacks, taking the time to check in and see how you are feeling (stuffed, starving, or somewhere in between?) can help you to enjoy your meals more and eat portions that are appropriate for your size and your body’s needs. If you would more tailored advice regarding appropriate portion sizes for your individual needs, visit this page to learn about my 1-on-1 nutrition coaching services.

I hope you enjoyed learning about how snacking can benefit you. If you found this article helpful, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!