Settling it once and for all: is snacking good or bad for you?
With a crunchy carrot here and a Greek yogurt there, having a snack or two each day does more than taste good. Even though it seems to go against conventional wisdom when it comes to losing weight, snacking can be part of a healthy weight loss program — and that’s just one thing of the health benefits of snacking. Instead of sticking to three square meals a day, why not see how healthy snacking can play a role in your diet? It might become a key habit that helps you feel great!
Snacking boosts brain power
Whether you need some extra help concentrating at work or you want to feel alert during the afternoon, snacking can help fuel your body — and your brain. Choose focus-boosting foods like avocados, blueberries and dark chocolate, which can all help you remain alert and engaged in the task at hand. Having a snack keeps your energy levels elevated when you might be dreaming of an afternoon nap. When you make healthy selections, a snack also gives your brain the nutrients it needs to work its best.
It beats cravings
Did you know that snacking has the potential to help you lose weight? When you snack during the day, it prevents you from getting ravenously hungry. You’re more likely to grab a healthier snack than whatever sugary treat is closest. You’re also less likely to overeat at your main meals, which saves calories.
Having a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack can also amp up your metabolism. When you’re eating every few hours, your body is regularly processing food. This keeps your metabolism busy burning calories all day. Snacking can also even out your blood sugar levels so you don’t experience the spikes of insulin that can lead to weight gain.
Snacking can lower your risk of some diseases
Snacking on healthy bites during the day might even decrease your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. It evens out your blood sugar, and it may also help lower your cholesterol. Research has shown that people who eat small snacks throughout the day typically have lower blood cholesterol levels than people who don’t snack. If you’re working on improving your overall health, snacking can help.
How to snack
As you get started, remember a few key tips. You’ll want to keep your snacks pretty small — around 150 to 200 calories per mini-meal. Also, be sure you’re eating every three to five hours. Go for a snack between breakfast and lunch, and one between lunch and dinner. If you start feeling hungry a couple hours before bed, you might choose to have a snack then, too. Lastly, have a glass of water with each snack to keep yourself feeling full.
Healthy snacks to try
To reap the health benefits of snacking, the foods you choose to snack on are just as important as the act itself. It’s important to pick things that have a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat so you stay satisfied and energized. Try out some of these foods as you start incorporating snacking into your daily routine:
- Avocado slices or guacamole
- Berries, especially blueberries
- Broccoli and hummus
- Carrot sticks
- Celery sticks with peanut butter
- Dark chocolate
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Kale chips
- Seaweed sheets
- Sunflower seeds
- Tuna and whole-grain crackers or lettuce wraps
- Yogurt (use it as a dip for the berries)
If you’re ready to start reaping the health benefits of snacking, we’re here to help! Visit Mercy.com today to make an appointment with a nutrition specialist. We’ll work with you to understand your health goals and help you make positive diet changes.