5 Tips for Healthy Snacking: From Trail Mixes to Clusters & Beyond

So many of us snack and love doing so. Snacking is a great way to curb appetite between meals, get in certain nutrients that we may be missing in our meals throughout the day as well as keep us energized when on the run. Snacking also helps us from inhaling the entire spread when it's finally time to sit down for dinner. On the contrary, if we graze all day on foods with little to no nutritional value, you may be a bystander to an ever-growing waistline as a result of overeating. To help you snack smarter, here are 5 tips for healthy snacking: 

Focus Nutrients not Calories!

Instead of focusing on the total calorie content of your snack in hand, try thinking about the quality of its nutrients instead. Certain pre-portioned calorie snack packs currently on the market, for example, are generally not as healthy as their marketing may make them seem. These low-calorie snack packs are oftentimes lacking many beneficial nutrients that support your health. Instead of focusing on calories alone, choose healthy snacks that are rich in vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Choose foods that are functional in supporting your health in addition to controlling the 10am growl letting you know that breakfast is gone, but it’s not yet quite time for lunch.

Quick tips when it comes to reading food labels:

  • Look for foods that have 0 grams of trans fat. Stay away from foods whose label reads "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" in the ingredients list, as this is a form of a ‘trans’ fat. Choosing foods made with healthy unsaturated oils (olive, canola, avocado, sunflower) are better options.
  • Aim to limit added sugar intake. Sugar, no matter what it is called, contains little to no nutrient content other than pure carbohydrate. High sugar intake will fill you up with empty calories, ultimately keeping you from eating healthy foods, and stresses your body's ability to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Steer clear of foods that have corn syrup, corn sugar, or high-fructose corn syrup among the first three ingredients.
  • Fit in the fiber. At minimum, aim for foods that have at least 1 gram of fiber per 10 grams of carbohydrate. Fiber helps us feel full and stay full.
  • Lastly, if you can’t read it, don’t eat it. If you are having a hard time pronouncing a word on an ingredient list, the chances are it was produced in a lab to either preserve or sweeten the food item you are contemplating. Don't get confused with some exotic fruits and vegetable names though, those are okay!

Combine Food Groups.

Make your snacks count! When we pair snacks from all food groups, we enable the ‘triple threat’ of snacking. Fat and protein help us feel full, giving us that satiated feeling while carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, provide fiber and energy to keep us going throughout the day.  Organic trail mixes made with just nuts, seeds and dried fruit are a great - and easy - snack that does just this!

At the same time, we, as the majority of Americans, do not consume enough fruits and vegetables daily. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals we need. Choosing our snacks wisely allows us to fit in those fruit and veggie servings throughout the day without having to feel like a rabbit at each and every meal.

When we work to pair food groups into one smart, healthy snack, it is important to choose these foods prudently. Choosing snacks for the time of day is critical as well. If your dinner was on the light side and you need a little pre-zzzzz snack, certain food combinations have been shown to promote a nice snooze. Specialists recommend a snack that is rich in carbohydrates with a bit of protein; this key combo is said to increase the tryptophan levels in the brain, triggering more sound sleep. Try your yogurt of choice with a sprinkle of Supernola clusters for a  great natural mix of carbs, protein, and fiber.

Be Mindful.

Munching mindlessly while binging on your favorite show is a surefire way to gain unnecessary pounds. Eating while distracted makes it difficult to fully listen to your hunger cues (1). In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate a meal without distractions felt more satisfied and ate less later in the day (2) This does not mean you can never enjoy your favorite program with a snack, it is just vital to ensure your snack of choice is a smart and healthy selection.

Something else to keep in mind is, when able, always eat your snack in a designated place. Such places may be the dining room table, kitchen counter, or even your patio. This allows you to be present and listen to your body and mind for fullness cues. This also forces you to avoid eating out of boredom or stress as you must get up from what you were doing, grab your snack and then move to your designated area. Research has shown that when we eat out of boredom or stress, we tend to eat nutrient-poor foods that are high in sodium, fat, and sugar (cite).

Pre-plan and Portion Size

Skip the vending machine and satisfy the afternoon munchies with a healthy snack you packed at home. In doing this, you will not only save money, but you will receive a much bigger bang for your nutritional buck. In fact, buying snacks on the go can be twice as expensive as bringing them from home. Portioned out "homemade" carrots and hummus costs $1; while the prepacked version will run you $2, at minimum. Planning ahead to ensure smart snacking does you good in the wallet and waistline.

The importance of planning ahead is especially important when traveling. However often you fly, road trip or train, prepare in advance so you will have healthy snacks to eat en-route. For shorter flights, pack 1/4 cup dried fruit (such as apricots), a Supernola snack pack, and a few whole-wheat crackers as healthier alternatives to the salty snacks served in-flight.

A snack is to help ward off hunger between meals – not substitute a meal. It is important to enjoy snacks in moderation. While portion control is critical, you do not necessarily have to precisely measure your food, but having awareness of appropriate portion sizes can be helpful. A budget friendly option is to buy or cook in bulk, then divide snacks into smaller containers to keep portions sizes under control. 

We at Supernola like to include smart healthy snacks as part of our weekly meal planning. Quick ‘go-to’ snacks our team leans on include:

  • Supernola Cluster packs (all flavors, of course).  We make the healthy choice the easy choice with delicious superfood clusters packed with antioxidants and plant protein.  It’s no wonder they fit into our smart snacking routines perfectly!
  • Pre-cut fruits and vegetables visible in the refrigerator or pantry for easy access.
  • We always keep staple ingredients on hand to accompany and complete any snack. These include: hummus, yogurt of choice and nut butters.

Go Nuts!

Unsalted nuts and seeds make great snacks. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, hazelnuts, and other nuts and seeds contain many beneficial nutrients and are more likely to leave you feeling full (unlike chips or pretzels). 

Research has shown if you soak nuts and seeds for at least 2 hours, you increase nutrient absorption and digestibility and dehydration is a way to naturally preserve while maintaining nutrient status. At Supernola, we do both! By soaking nuts and seeds, we can eliminate up to 70% or more of the phytic acid (which binds minerals, inhibiting full absorption), while dehydrating our fruits allows us to maintain the nutrient density and vibrant flavors. That means, more amazing nutrients from these superfoods!

At Supernola, we have purposefully selected nuts and seeds that are rich in plant-based protein and naturally provide vitamins that your body needs. While nuts are calorie-dense, we have also portioned them out in single-service snack packs to prevent overeating. 

Bottom Line

We all need an anytime, anywhere snack that gives us long-lasting energy, is delicious and is not hindering our health goals. Healthy snacking helps us prevent the moment when you are out running errands and all of a sudden your stomach starts to growl or when you feel you need to swing by the nearest drive-thru to prevent arriving home in the ‘hangry’ state. We need something fast, easy and healthy. We hope you enjoy the tips we have reviewed today. Welcome to mindful snacking.  

 

References:

  1. Digital Commensality: Eating and Drinking in the Company of Technology
  2. Effects of distraction on taste-related neural processing: a cross-sectional fMRI study0?searchresult=1

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