What are you favourite healthy snacks? Share yours with other readers in the comments section below.
The key is not eliminating snacks, it's knowing how to snack smart and healthy. Susin Cadman, R.D. Community Nutritionist from Brandon, Manitoba, shares the secrets to smart snacking. With her expert advice, you'll snack yourself skinny in no time!
The good news: You benefit from healthy snacks
Aim for snacks that have fewer than 200 calories, says Cadman. "Healthy snacking, as part of a healthy diet, is a great way to get all the nutrients you need," she says. "Nutrients help you stay healthy and give you energy. Snacks can keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. This can help to curb feelings of hunger between meals and stop you from eating too much at mealtimes and binge eating later in the day."
She says the keys to healthy snacking are:
a) the foods you choose
b) the amount you eat
c) how often you snack
According to Cadman, a general rule is to choose two foods from each of the four food groups of Canada's Food Guide or to include food groups that you fall short of at meal times. She also recommends limiting your snacks to no more than three a day. "Any combination of two food groups such as vegetable and fruit or grains, paired with milk and alternatives or meat and alternatives works best," she says. "This will give you a good combination of protein and carbohydrate."
Page 1 of 2 – Discover which foods to reach for when you're craving a healthy snack on page 2.
Avoid mindless snacking and emotional eating
Learning to recognize true hunger and fullness from emotional eating will help you determine when your body really needs food and when it doesn't, says Cadman. "When you're bored, tired, upset or stressed, put space between the emotion and putting food in your mouth. Try something else like going for a walk, calling a friend, reading a book, writing in a journal or listening to music."
The importance of food labels & watch serving sizes
Packaged foods have labels outlining nutrition facts to help educate consumers and inform eating choices. But Cadman stresses the following distinction: "A food guide serving is the amount set by Health Canada that you see in the food guide. A food label serving is the amount set by the food manufacturer and government regulations. They are not always the same. A portion is the amount you normally serve yourself. Your portion can be bigger or smaller than a food guide serving or the amount on the food label. Be aware of the amount of calories in your portion."
Snacks: At home and on the go
In order to make healthful snacking choices, it's imperative to be prepared – both at home and on the go. Having healthy choices readily available will prevent the last-minute panic that causes you to reach for that bag of chips.
At home: Cadman says to always keep a variety of healthy ready-to-eat snacks in your fridge and cupboards at home. She recommends:
- fresh or frozen unsweetened fruit with low fat yogurt
- raw vegetables with light dip or low fat cottage cheese
- low fat whole grain crackers with hummus, peanut butter or low fat cheese
- homemade smoothie with fruit and milk alternate
- single portion yogurt with high fibre cereal
On the go: Eating high calorie foods on the go is bound to derail any diet. Cadman recommends these foods to have on hand:
- raw vegetables
- fresh fruit
- single portion unsweetened fruit cups
- fruit sauces
- unsalted nuts
- seeds with dried fruit like raisins or figs
- homemade trail mix
- single serve can of tuna with whole wheat crackers or baby carrots
Tips for snacking wisely
Cadman offers up these tips to help you make smart snack choices:
1. Start by adding healthy snack food items to your shopping list in the amounts you require. If you don't have junk food in the house, you can't eat it.
2. Watch your portion size. Buy small packages of food or take small portions from larger packages. Eat slowly. Don't snack directly from a large container, bag or box. Proportion food items at the beginning of the day or the night before so they are ready to go in the amount required.
3. Have fruits and vegetables washed and cut ahead of time so they are ready when you need them. Store vegetables and fruit front and centre in your fridge so they are not hidden away in the vegetable crisper where they may be forgotten.
4. Keep a stash of non-perishable, healthy food items in the car, in your purse or at the office so you always have something ready when hunger strikes.
Natalie Bahadur is the Senior Editor of styleathome.com and is a regular contributor to CanadianLiving.com.
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