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The Fine Art of Snacking

posted Sep 22, 2014, 6:59 AM by Rachel Griffin
Are you confused and overwhelmed by the sheer thought of planning your snacks*?  You're probably thinking, 'I don't even have time to plan my meals...now I have to plan my snacks, too?'.  Well, this post is titled 'The Fine Art of Snacking' for a reason!  Combining appropriate nutrients and managing overall caloric intake in between meals can be a real challenge...and everyone has individual needs.  For example, young children seem to eat more snacks than meals!  They are constantly eating, but usually in small amounts.  As we grow into adults and have various interests, hobbies, and careers, nutrition needs start to individualize very quickly.  If you exercise frequently or have an active job, you may find that a snack is the key to keeping you energized.  If you aren't as active, you may find that snacking is only an occasional practice for you.  No matter what your snacking needs are, there are a few simple guidelines to help you best fuel your body:
  1. Only have a snack if you are actually hungry!  Check in with your mood and emotions.  Are you physically hungry?  Are you bored, anxious, or stressed? Will drinking a glass of water or going for a quick walk fulfill my desire to snack right now?  Drink the water or take the walk, and see how you feel.  We often think we are hungry when we are experiencing another emotion, so always check in before you chow down. 
  2. If you are in fact hungry and your next meal is 2-3 hours away, it's probably a good idea to go ahead and have a snack.  It is a good rule of thumb to try to plan a snack if you know that you will go greater than 5 hours between meals.  For example, if you know that you eat lunch at noon every day and you have dinner at 7pm every day, it would be a good idea to have a snack in the mid-afternoon.  This will not only prevent you from overeating at dinner, but will help you have the energy to complete your work (or workout) before your next meal.  
  3. Eat a balanced snack!  Traditional snacks such as potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, or candy provide you with calories and fat, but normally lack fiber and protein.  Always pair a protein with a carbohydrate for your snack.  This can be as simple as a glass of milk or a handful of trail mix or as complex as a miniature portion of a mixed dish (that final 1/4 of that sandwich or salad you couldn't finish at lunch).  By combining protein and carbohydrate you are giving your body the correct blend of nutrients to help keep you full and satisfied. 
Balanced snack options are available in your I.L. Creations Cafe every day!  Pick one up with your lunch to be prepared for that afternoon slump:
  • Fruit (1 piece whole or 1/2 cup cut) + 1/2 cup cottage cheese or plain greek yogurt (refrigerate until you are ready to eat)
  • Low-fat or skim milk (refrigerate) + individual pack of cereal (Cheerios or Kashi) or a Kind Bar
  • Carrot/celery sticks + 2 tbsp. hummus from the salad bar
  • 1/4 cup of tuna, chicken, or egg salad and individual bag of baked chips (such as Stacy's Pita Chips) or 2 packs of saltine crackers 
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of one of our Housemade Salads (refrigerate until you are ready to eat)
  • 1 small cup of broth-based soup (refrigerate and reheat as needed) + hard boiled egg (refrigerate until ready to eat)
For more information about balanced snacking or any other health and wellness topic, be sure to stop by the cafeteria when your Registered Dietitian is visiting.  Click here for the full nutrition events calendar. 

*For the purpose of this discussion, I will define "snack" as any food that is consumed outside of breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
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