Snacking – a topic that is forever on the dietary forefront of our minds due to the constant state of hunger we seem to find ourselves in. While some people can run more efficiently on three bigger meals a day, many of us that thrive on smaller meals supplemented with a few snacks as support.
So what do you do when the hunger pangs hit after an excruciatingly long work day and dinner with your friends isn’t for another three hours? You reach for a snack, or a “mini meal,” as I like to call it. Many of us struggle with choosing snacking choices that will truly fill us up without weighing us down.
Here are some healthy snack ideas to keep your snacking exciting, healthy, and most importantly – requiring as little thought as possible.
Keep It Dense
Nutrient density matters when it comes to eating. You’re ultimately looking for something to suppress the appetite that will give you the biggest bang for the least amount of caloric buck without jeopardizing your blood sugars or next meal. When you choose foods full of sugar or simple carbohydrates, your blood sugars spike, causing a dip in energy, brain fog, and cravings/more hunger. The goal is to avoid this from happening. Think of snacking as a supplement to your overall dietary plan. It’s a great way to add in some extra nutrients and vitamins to keep you fueled and ready to tackle the rest of your day.
The most nutrient dense foods? Real foods, of course. The simple mental shift of “Does this have a long shelf life or not?” is a great way to approach healthier snacking choices. The shorter shelf life, the more likely it is to be better for you. Opt for real foods vs boxed options. Pro tip: The exterior aisles of the grocery store where all the fresh produce is held is the perfect place to find healthy snacks. Whole Foods in Green Hills happens to have their produce near the wine … works for us.
Make It Colorful
This is a tried and true approach when it comes to eating. The more color on your plate, the more nutrients you’re giving to your body. Ensuring there is some green, orange, or blue/red will ensure you’re taking in some antioxidant powerhouses. Keep fresh-cut fruits and vegetables in glass containers in your fridge to satisfy the craving for savory or sweet when that mini meal pang hits. Fresh Market in Brentwood is the perfect place to get lost in healthy-food options.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Fats
Fats are a fantastic pairing with colorful and nutrient-dense foods, like fruit and vegetables. They’re incredibly helpful in maintaining your blood sugars, preventing any spikes, and allowing you to feel fuller for longer. Keep fresh yogurt (coconut or dairy), raw nuts pre-portioned in bags (about 15-20 nuts at a time), nut butter (1-2 tablespoon servings), canned chickpeas (blend with a little olive oil or tahini for a hummus), or avocados to pair with all of your fresh fruit and vegetables. Think guacamole or hummus with carrots, celery with nut butter, or with berries with yogurt. Live near West End? Produce Place on Murphy Road is a weekly staple for the TNE ladies.
Say Yes to Liquids
Liquid meals are a great way to give your digestion a rest with a higher nutrient intake than you might be able to consume with a solid meal. Smoothies and soups allow you to combine a magnitude of ingredients and fiber that you might not be able to consume all together in their solid state. When making a smoothie, keep it to an easy 1-2 ratio of 1 or 2 fruits (berries, bananas, or mangos), 1 green (spinach or kale), 1 fat (nut butter or avocado) and blend with water or with any additional items such as protein powder, coconut or almond milk, and superfoods like raw cacao or maca powder. You’ll not only be filling yourself up without making yourself feel sluggish, but you’ll also be hydrating yourself.
Soups are just as easy if you are more into savory snacks. Just pull out some frozen vegetables you have on hand, place in a pot with vegetable broth and fresh herbs/spices of your choice, simmer for 25-30 minutes, and puree with a dash of coconut milk. Check out Southernaire Market if you happen to be downtown and need of a quick, healthy snack.
Give Into the Crunch
A lot of people crave crunchy or salty when that afternoon hunger hits. That’s absolutely fine if you know how to tackle it. Luckily, there is a fantastic way to fulfill that craving without sacrificing the concept of eating real food. Rice cakes made from quinoa and red or brown rice make a fantastic crunchy vessel for all of the colorful nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, and fats mentioned above. Try some low-sodium, organic turkey with a slice of cheese and arugula layered onto a rice cake. Prefer plant-based snacks? Smashed avocado with red pepper flakes as a topper is one of our favorites for a quick snack during the day. If you’re in the Gulch, you already know to stop by Turnip Truck.
Snacking really is a strategic way to fuel your metabolism, suppress your hunger, and give your body an energy kick. By paying attention to what is in your fridge and how real the contents are, you are automatically setting yourself up to make healthy decisions when you’re too rushed or hungry to think logically. By filling your fridge with colorful, nutrient-rich, whole grain, and healthy fat containing foods, you can quickly assemble a snack that not only keeps your hunger at bay but keeps your body fueled with antioxidant-rich ingredients. That afternoon snack attack is no longer your enemy!