Snacks are a useful way to eat healthy and stay fueled for your day. There’s an abundance of options available but you may be wondering how to make a healthy snack that fits your needs.
There are a few different reasons why snacks are helpful. For one – snacks help keep your appetite in check. When you feel satiated, you’re less likely to overeat or reach for food you didn’t intend to eat.
Snacks can also provide nutrients to help you meet certain nutritional goals (i.e., get enough protein) or fuel your body for a workout. Lastly, they are a great substitute meals when you’re on the go.
Depending on why you need them – here are some ways to make it a healthy snack…
One thing to keep in mind is what kinds of food are satiating. Meaning – what will help you feel satisfied for longer? Fats and proteins fall into the category of satiating foods. So, depending on how long you need to go between meals – snacks that are either high in protein or a combination of fat and protein will help you feel fuller longer.
One drawback for snacks that are high in fat (i.e. nuts and nut butters) is they are also high in calories, so you need to watch your portion size.
Cheese and dairy products, like yogurt and cottage cheese are a balance of both fat and protein. This means you can eat more but consume fewer calories.
Snacks like protein shakes are almost completely made up of protein. The exception to this would be vegan protein powders which are higher in carbohydrates but still a great snack option.
Examples of snacks to fuel between meals
When looking for snacks that will tide you over between meals – think of it this way :
Protein + Some A Little Fat + Minimal Carbohydrate
Here are some examples of healthy snacks…
- String cheese
- Ricotta cheese or cottage cheese and fruit
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Protein shake
- Chia pudding
- Protein bar
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana
- Apple and peanut butter
- Energy/protein balls
- Ants on a log (Celery with peanut butter and raisins)
- Jerky or meat sticks
- Greek yogurt with berries and granola
Fruits and vegetables as a healthy snack
Vegetables and fruits are great snacks. However, they’re not completely balanced because they are almost entirely a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are a quick source of energy for the body. But, because they digest quickly compared to fats and protein, they won’t be as satiating.
There are some advantages of fruits and vegetables though. Vegetables and fruit are nutrient-dense foods, which means you can eat a lot of them without consuming many calories. This makes them a great low-calorie snack.
Fruits and vegetables are also great because they provide fiber and hydration – both of which help you feel fuller longer. Plus, they are chock full of vitamins and minerals!
If you’re eating a snack after a workout – it’s helpful to consume protein to help repair and rebuild muscle tissue. For more intense types of training where you burn a lot of calories during your workout – you should include a carbohydrate source with your protein. Having a source of fat is not critical for a post-workout snack.
Depending on the intensity of your workout, a good formula to follow for a post-workout snack is:
Protein + Minimal to Moderate Carbohydrate
Protein bars, shakes, or a yogurt parfait would be good examples of post-workout snacks.
For a pre-workout snack – you’ll want options that digest quickly since many people find it uncomfortable to have food sitting in their stomach during a workout. These options will be more carbohydrate-based.
A formula for a pre-workout snack would be:
Low Fiber Carbohydrate + Minimal Protein + Little to No Fat.
For example, a piece of fruit like a banana or an orange would be a great pre-workout snack. Fruits that are higher in fiber, like apples, for example, may work fine for some people – others may not tolerate the fiber as well right before a workout.
If you have two or more hours to eat before your workout – you can eat a more balanced snack like the ones listed above (snacks between meals) since food will have enough time to pass through your stomach.
What to avoid
One thing to be cautious of when it comes to snacks is sugar. Snack food is notorious for sugar and is often hidden. There are hundreds of variations and names for sugar. Some examples of “healthy” food that often contain high amounts of sugar are granola bars and yogurt.
Similarly, snack foods like chips, crackers, and cookies are filled with ingredients that don’t provide nutrients for your body. If your goal is to fuel your body for performance in the gym and to look and feel good in general – be sure to minimize junk food and Sstick with whole foods that closely resemble their original form in nature.
And iIf you’re ever curious if a snack is nutritious or not – check the labels. Stick with products where you recognize the names of the ingredients and avoid products that indicate sugar as an ingredient.
The best healthy snack for you
The best choice of snack is going to be something that works for you. It has to be something you enjoy and something that fits your needs. Also, it needs to make you feel good!
Experiment with different options using the list and formulas above. Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to determine what works best for you. As long as you know how to make a healthy snack you will be fueled and ready to tackle your day!
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