Everyone loves a good snack. At its best, a snack can be the ideal pick-me-up after a really tough workout or a well-deserved mid-afternoon break at the office. But healthy snacking isn’t a slam dunk. At its worst, snacks can derail your healthy eating goals and ultimately sabotage your weight-loss. Here’s 5 common mistakes to avoid in your snack game.
Mistake #1 Skipping Snacks
One of the big problems I have with diets is they are always cutting something out. Whether it’s calorie counting, food restrictions, or obnoxious fasting rules, popular diets make us feel guilty for needing a snack. We don’t like being told we can’t have this or do that, especially when it comes to food. So dieters eventually cave for the thing they can’t have, get depressed that they failed, and quit.
I’m telling you right now – have snacks. In fact, eat like a Hobbit. At least target 3 meals a day with a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Snacking helps you avoid getting hangry, keeps your energy up, and eating 4–5 smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day is a proven strategy for increased weight loss.
The fix: Instead of snacking on rabbit food or some pre-packaged “low-cal” crackers or cookies that won’t satisfy you, try adding hummus or peanut butter to carrots or celery sticks. I eat an apple with peanut butter almost every day around 3 pm. Target a mix of protein and carbs in your snack choice. This more filling option won’t break the calorie bank and should help keep you from overeating later.
Mistake #2 Snacking When You’re Not Hungry
If you’ve ever reached for something sweet or salty out of pure boredom you’re definitely not alone. Such mindless eating can add up fast and prevent you from reaching your goals.
The fix: Before reaching for a snack, do a hunger check. Ask yourself, “Am I really hungry, or just bored, tired, stressed?” If you aren’t actually hungry, go for a big glass of water, take a short walk, or find something else to do. Being mindful about your food intake is key to reaching your goals. Remember your reasons why you want to eat healthy and let that drive you to make good choices.
Mistake #3 Incorrect Portion Sizes
Nuts, seeds and dried fruit are excellent, nutrient-dense snacks, but they can be easy to overeat if you’re not careful. Beware of portion sizes for such foods. Usually a handful is all you really need. Portion sizes are made easy when you choose whole fruits like apples, bananas, pears. Once you are used to using portion control containers, you won’t need to measure anything.
The fix: Instead of eating right out of a bag of nuts and seeds, serve yourself the appropriate portion size.
Mistake #4 Not Planning
Failing to plan is a plan to fail in your snack game. If you are serious about eating right, you need a plan. It includes bringing healthy food to work with you, and keeping the junk out of your kitchen at home.
The fix: Make snack prep a part of your regular routine. Keep some whole wheat crackers and real cheese or healthy homemade trail mix at the office. You can bring hard cooked eggs, egg cups, a small jar of peanut butter to go with your apple or banana, etc.
Mistake #5 Not Having The Right Macros
Both protein and fat are essential macronutrients that help keep you feeling full and satisfied. An ideal snack should contain a mix of both carbohydrates and protein/ fat. Your brain and central nervous system run exclusively on carbs (sugar) found in foods such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, milk and yogurt. You need protein such as meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, and seeds to sustain energy and fullness longer.
The fix: Choose snacks that incorporate both a healthy fat or protein, like almonds for example, with your fruit. This will help you stay fuller longer and avoid extra servings at lunch or dinner because you’re starving.
What are your favorite healthy snacks?