Snacking can be a useful weight management tool – if you make the right choices.
Research from the USDA shows snacking can be associated with eating more nutritious foods like fruits or vegetables and a decreased likelihood of being overweight. However, it also shows snacking can lead to the consumption of more empty calories or calories that provide energy without much nutrition.
Mindy Probst, a registered dietitian at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, offers the following five tips to make sure your snacking helps rather than hinders weight management:
1. Plan snacks according to your daily schedule
If you usually have a long stretch between meals, you may need something to hold you over. Planned snacks often prevent poor food choices that are usually made at vending machines or convenience stores.
2. Avoid emotional eating
Before snacking, ask yourself if you’re really hungry. If you’re bored, tired, stressed, angry or excited, do something other than eat to deal with the emotion. Try talking to a friend, going for a walk or taking a bubble bath.
3. Choose snacks with healthier ingredients
Look on the nutrition facts panel and ingredient lists. Choose foods with mono- or polyunsaturated fats (like nuts!) rather than saturated or trans-fat. Buy foods made with whole grains—contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and list whole grain flour within the first three ingredients. Look for foods with the lowest sodium and sugar content.
4. Pre-portion snacks
Follow the suggested serving size found on food labels, eat/drink from smaller containers or cups, and avoid eating mindlessly from a bag or box.
5. Include food groups you might otherwise miss throughout the day
Most of us usually fall short of the daily recommended number of fruit, vegetable, and dairy servings. Including these types of food at snack time can lead to a more balanced diet.