© efired - Fotolia.com


Snacking is becoming increasingly popular. It is often taken as an opportunity to consume empty calories from processed foods full of ‘bad’ fats and added sugars. In fact, many experts attribute the current obesity epidemic, at least in part, to our snacking habits.

With the right guidance, however, snacking can be a great way to keep your energy levels up, your hunger down, and ensure that you meet your daily nutrient needs. Snacks allow you to spread your daily calorie allowance throughout the day, thereby helping to maintain blood sugar levels. You just have to make sure you are snacking correctly.

Follow these 5 rules to ensure that you are maximizing your snacking potential.

1. Plan

I know firsthand what happens when you have a busy day with no food plan. It results in desperate and impulsive food decisions, often from limited and unhealthy options. That is why it is so important to plan your snacks.

At home, keep plenty of snack options prepared and easily accessible. If you are going out, carry some healthy snacks with you. If you need some ideas, there are 20 nutritious snack ideas at the bottom of this post.

2. Add Protein

While most people head for carbohydrates when they want a snack (think, crackers, chips, and cookies), protein is a far better option.

Protein-rich snacks are an excellent way to keep you feeling full for longer. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, milk, yogurt, and cheese are all foods that contain plenty of high-quality protein. By incorporating these into your snacks, you can help slow down the movement of food out of your stomach. The result is that you will feel satisfied for longer.

3. Be Mindful

Many people snack for the sake of snacking. They either eat out of habit (think, popcorn at the movies) or out of boredom (think, candy bar at your work desk). They eat in the absence of hunger, and in circumstances that do not allow them to experience satiety (feeling full). They are snacking mindlessly. Not only does this result in an increase in the amount of food they consume while distracted, it also leads to additional later snacking.

Mindful eating encourages you to become aware of the physical sensations of hunger and satiety so they can help you decide when to eat and when to stop. It is an excellent way to make sure you are eating because your body needs the fuel, and not because you are bored, distracted, or eating because of an association between an activity or location and a certain food. It also helps you ensure that you do not overeat, ultimately helping you to maintain a healthy weight.

4. Include fruits and vegetables  

We all need to include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet to make sure we meet our nutrient needs, but it is not always easy. By including fruits and vegetables in your snacks, you can make sure you meet your fruit and vegetable quota every day.

5. Keep them handy

If your healthy snacks are hiding, the chances are they will be forgotten when hunger strikes. In fact, researchers have shown that people are far more likely to eat healthy foods if they are visible and easy to reach. So make sure you keep your fruit bowl full and somewhere obvious, and keep healthy foods at the front of your fridge or pantry.

20 nutritious 200-calorie snacks

Here are 20 suggestions for healthy, protein-rich, nutritious snacks. They all  contain around 200 calories, which is the perfect amount for a filling snack.

  1. 1 slice of whole wheat toast with 1/4 avocado and 1 oz smoked salmon
  2. 6 oz plain low fat Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup berries, and 1 tbsp honey
  3. 1 cup apple slices and 1.5 tbsp almond butter
  4. 1/4 cup of homemade trail mix (almonds, dried cranberries, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, and chocolate chips)
  5. 1/3 cup hummus and 1 cup carrot sticks
  6. 1 low fat mozzarella cheese stick, 1 cup of sliced bell pepper, and 1 serving of whole wheat crackers
  7. 1/2 cup roasted garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  8. 1 brown rice cake, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1/2 banana, and cinnamon
  9. 3 slices of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto
  10. Banana, raspberry, spinach, and Greek yogurt smoothie
  11. 1 homemade granola bar
  12. 1/2 whole wheat bagel, 1 tbsp with cream cheese, sliced strawberries and a drizzle of honey
  13. Mini avocado caprese salad (1/2 avocado, 3 cherry tomatoes, 3 ciliegine mozzarella balls, fresh basil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar)
  14. 1 cup salsa and 1 serving of whole wheat pita chips
  15. 1 cup low fat cottage cheese, 1/2 cup berries, and a drizzle of honey
  16. 2 hard boiled eggs and 1 cup sugar snap peas
  17. 1 oz cheddar and 1 cup pineapple (a throwback to the 80s cheese and pineapple hedgehog!)
  18. homemade berry muffin
  19. 1 cup edamame
  20. 1 oz dark chocolate and 1/2 cup low fat milk