According to Fitness Magazine, 76% of us grab anything in sight when we get an intense craving between meals. Less than 25% of us wait until we can get to something healthy! The important thing with snacking is to plan ahead! Pack plenty of healthy snacks for work, school, roadtrips, or any occasion where you will be in between meals. One of the ways that our diets can get off track is when we either give in to cravings the wrong way (we will discuss ways to treat cravings without using up too many calories later) or find ourselves insanely hungry (at work or on the road) and see the convenience of a candy bar or fast food. We all fall into these situations. But, here are a few tips to healthy snacking.
Be prepared- One of the perks of being insanely hungry is that you will eat anything, so this could be a good time to get chore-like foods that are chock-full of nutrients into your body. Think slices of raw red peppers, a handful of baby carrots, or apples. If you have food with you when you get that insane food craving (say, at 11am), you won't be forced to hit up a vending machine.
Get more bang for your buck- Snacks should be 150-200 calories. Think about what is going to hold you over until your next meal. If you give into buying a Twix bar or a bag of chips, not only are you going to have to work that off at the gym, but you are going to hungry for something else right after you finish. Foods that are rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber will hold you over. Lately, I've been eating half of an avocado when I get really hungry and it fills me up more than any other fruit/veggie around. (Plus, avocados fight/prevent cancer.) Avocados might contain a lot of [healthy] fats, but at least I know that this food is healing my body and going to make me less hungry for a longer period of time.
See if the healthy route will work before trying anything else- Drink a glass of water and eat a piece of fruit and see if you still have the urge to pig out on chocolate. Sweet fruits like oranges or berries can actually eliminate sweet cravings. (Drizzling local honey onto fruit is another great way to satisfy a craving for something sweet, like pictured above.) Also, make sure that you are eating balanced meals and drinking enough water every day to ensure that your snacking isn't out of control. (TIP: Take your weight and divide it by two to find out exactly how many ounces of water your body needs each day.) When you are hydrated and properly nourished, you will find that healthy snacks hold you over and satisfy you better. Snacks are not meant to be meals, ever. They are meant to hold you over until your next balanced meal.
Things to avoid- Never, EVER, replace a snack (or a meal) with a hearty beverage like a Frappuccino (especially loaded up with whipped cream) or a fast food smoothie. Drinks can be deceptive in that they can contain more calories than giant burgers or pizzas, but we don't think of them as food, so we never put two and two together. Frapps and fast food smoothies (which can contain ice cream!) can contain up to 1,000 calories (which is more than half of your TOTAL daily calorie intake!!)
Also, be cautious of anything that comes in a plastic package, like candybars, cookies, or potato chips. All of these things are nothing but empty calories and will not stop your hunger. Be cautious of certain protein bars, as well, because not all of them are created equal. Look for low-calorie bars that contain a lot of fiber, as well as protein.
Healthy snacking ideas- Greek yogurt (my favorite is Dannon Oikos' Key Lime flavor or Chobani's Pomegranate flavor), ThinkThin Fruit & Nut Granola Bars (my current favorite health bar), apples (there is nothing more convenient than an apple), a handful of baby carrots (add hummus if you aren't sure you can feel full from carrots alone), whole wheat toast with strawberries and peanut butter (or a Laughing Cow serving of cheese), etc. One of my favorite healthy snacks is a whole wheat wrap with almond butter and slices of bananas.
If you absolutely need to eat chocolate (we all get to that point, whether it be hormones or a bad day), just eat a modified version. Or, go to town and then hit the gym. Depriving yourself makes things worse, just remember to splurge occasionally, not every day.
Image Credit: Pinterest