Do you ever feel that afternoon slump and growling stomach distracting you in the midst of your work day? When we are not adequately fueling our bodies with healthy snacks, it can be common to feel a little bit sluggish, fatigued, and quite frankly, hangry!
It can be tempting to grab a quick bag of chips or a third cup of coffee to satisfy those cravings, but these can lead to energy crashes and won’t satiate you or aid you in productivity for the rest of the day.
Rather, it’s important to turn to filling, healthy snacks instead. They will help you avoid that growling stomach or energy crash later, as is typical after consuming a high sugar, low protein and low fiber snack. Even if you’re not normally a snacker, sometimes having a break and some calories can benefit your brain and focus!
Will healthy snacks actually keep me full?
When choosing a quality snack, it’s important to choose options that are low in sugar (particularly the “added'' kind) and rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. These nutrient-dense choices will help keep your energy and satiety consistent throughout the rest of your day!
What healthy snacks should I eat?
So what does that kind of snack look like? Let’s talk about a few great options and you decide which ones you want to incorporate into your daily routine!
1. A Banana with Nut Butter
Bananas and nut butter (of any kind) are a classic and delicious combination. What’s even better is that they’re super convenient to bring on the go. This healthy snack is a great source of protein and healthy fats from the nut butter as well as complex carbohydrates from the banana, keeping your belly full and your energy levels steady.
If you’re having sugar cravings, bananas are a great way to satisfy the sweet tooth. The natural sugar and awesome fiber balance out the sugar impact on your blood. Make sure to choose a nut butter without any added sugar if possible. You can check this by looking at the nutrition facts on the back of the jar!
Don’t enjoy bananas or want to switch it up? Trade out the banana for an apple or another delicious fruit that pairs well with nut butter!
2. Hard Boiled Eggs
Want a satisfying, affordable snack that’s quick to prepare and easy to take with you on the go? Hard boiled eggs are it!
Grab a bunch of eggs from a carton and boil them for about 7 minutes. Place them in an ice bath or cold water to cool, and you have daily snacks for the week!
Eggs are full of beneficial nutrients, including 7 grams of protein, healthy fats, vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins, many different minerals, and more! Eggs even contain choline - a nutrient necessary for healthy brain development. Organic, pasture-raised eggs will be the most nutritious and will even be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids! What’s not to love about eggs?
Scientists used to believe that eggs greatly increased our cholesterol levels. We have since learned that while eggs are a source of cholesterol, dietary cholesterol has little impact on our body’s total or LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. It may actually benefit our “good” HDL cholesterol levels instead. So there’s no longer any need to be scared of these nutrition powerhouses, they are a great healthy snack!
3. Carrots, Sweet Bell Peppers, or Celery and Hummus
Looking for that satisfying “crunch” but are trying to avoid the chips? Look no further than antioxidant packed carrots or bell peppers! Even better, dip them in a delicious and nutritious dip like hummus.
Snackable veggies and hummus are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The hummus is satiating with it’s high protein and beneficial monounsaturated fat content. What’s more, hummus contains garlic, which has incredible antiviral and antiinflammatory properties! Look for organic options when possible to avoid pesticides and get more nutrient-dense foods.
4. Greek yogurt with Your Favorite Toppings
Having a bit more of a sweets craving? A decadent snack option to take care of that craving is Greek yogurt!
Greek yogurt is packed with protein and has beneficial probiotics that support gut health. Look for one that doesn’t have added sweeteners or fillers, and is organic and grass-fed if possible.
Greek yogurt itself is fairly sour, but the toppings are what can change it into a sweet and even more nutritious treat! A great way to sweeten yogurt is with honey (organic/local), which has awesome antibacterial properties. Try topping your yogurt with berries like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or raspberries. They're great ways to add flavor while making your snack antioxidant-rich and increasing it’s micronutrient and fiber content!
Also, adding in seeds makes the snack much more nutritionally dense. Great options include chia, flax, hemp, or pumpkin seeds. These seeds are rich in both fiber and healthy fats, keeping you full and aiding healthy digestion. Want even more energy boost? Mix in raw cacao to your yogurt! Not only is this delicious, but the antioxidants in cacao actually improve blood flow in your body, which helps nutrients get to different parts of your body quicker and makes you feel more energized! This filling, healthy snack is a winner on getting a variety of nutrients to curb hunger and improve energy levels.
5. Trail Mix or Mixed Nuts
You can’t go wrong with a bag of trail mix or mixed nuts! This is one of the easiest snacks to have on-the-go and takes no prep work of your own (unless you make your own!).
This can be a very filling, healthy snack as it’s rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber - depending on which ingredients are included. Just make sure to avoid options at the store with added sugars, as some kinds contain chocolate candies or other sweet treats that won’t benefit your energy levels.
What time of day should I have a healthy snack?
You might be wondering what the best time of day to snack is. Well, the short answer is there is practically no right or wrong time! Everyone’s body is different and has varying needs for eating.
Some people enjoy intermittent fasting while others like to have a snack every hour. The key here is listening to your body and learning what feels right for you. Here’s some considerations for finding a filling, healthy snack at different times of the day.
Many people find that having a snack a couple of hours after lunch can help aid with productivity for the rest of the work day. It can help keep you satiated until dinner, so you’re not staring at the clock with a grumbling belly! It can also help combat that afternoon slump by giving us fuel and because the chewing motion can help wake up our brain. If this is a reason why you snack, it may be helpful to choose a cold, wet, and crunchy snack that will refresh your mind!
Before and After Workouts
Before and after workouts are two great times to enjoy a filling, healthy snack! Your energy might feel low if you don’t eat anything before trying to do an intense workout. Having a snack rich in complex carbohydrates an hour or two before exercise can help provide your muscles with energy to perform the workout. Having a snack after a workout, especially a protein-dense one is a great way to restore and build muscle.
Will snacking cause unwanted weight gain?
Snacking can cause unwanted weight gain, but it doesn’t have to. If you’re snacking so much that it’s causing your caloric intake to skyrocket, you may want to dial it back a bit. A snack should be a snack - not a whole extra meal.
It also depends on what type of snack you are consuming. A lower-fat snack of bell peppers and hummus won’t provide as many calories as a large handful of nuts or a banana covered in nut butter. This is because fat has more calories per gram than carbs or protein (9 grams instead of 4 grams). While these healthy fats themself aren’t necessarily what’s causing you to gain fat, the excess calories might be if you are snacking too much.
Just be mindful of how much you are snacking - if you are consuming an appropriate amount of calories and nutritious foods you shouldn’t see weight gain! Additionally, avoid snacks at night, as snacks of all kinds can definitely lead to weight gain when eaten before bed.
Can I lose weight if I eat healthy snacks?
Yes! In fact, some snacks can even aid in weight loss. Remember those nuts that can cause weight gain when eaten in excess? Well it turns out that when eaten in appropriate amounts they can also aid in weight loss, due to their protein content. This is because protein can boost your metabolism, causing your body to burn more calories. Another reason to love protein!
Also, avoiding snacks high in refined carbohydrates (crackers, chips, baked goods) and replacing them with complex carbohydrates rich in fiber will help keep your weight in check. Eating healthy, nutritionally dense foods in conjunction with daily exercise is the best way to lose weight.
Is it bad to snack before bed?
There is one time that you may want to avoid snacking - at night. Having snacks late at night can disturb sleep and lead to weight gain. After dinner, we want our body to start preparing for restorative sleep, and munching again hours after dinner can throw that process off. So, stick to having dinner be the last food that you eat for the day and have your snacks stay between morning and early evening.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that the key to conquering hunger throughout the day lies in filling, healthy snacks! Take a moment to prepare snacks ahead of time, so they are easy to grab on your way out the door and you have them with you when your stomach starts growling.
Having nourishing snacks ready to go will not only improve your health, it will reduce the temptation to reach for processed and packaged snacks or takeout. And remember, you can always check in with your Vessel Health nutritionist for any questions about the nutrition of a snack or tips for healthy snack success!