On average, Americans consume two snacks a day. Snacking accounts for nearly one quarter of an individual’s daily caloric intake, which is approximately 500 calories. Because snacking consumes such a large portion of your caloric intake, it is essential that you develop healthy snacking habits. We will examine the benefits that healthy snacking offers, including increased nutrient consumption, energy levels, snacking to recover from exercise, and how snacking can help maintain your weight.

Increased Nutrients

Snacks are a great way of incorporating nutritional foods into your diet. Nutritional foods are foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and other nutrients. Nutrient dense foods include whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, seafood, fruits, and vegetables.

Many individuals do not receive enough nutrients in their diets which increases the risk of chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, dental disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity. Choosing healthy snacks that are rich in nutrients rather than junk food with empty calories can improve your health.

Sustained Energy Levels Sleep Disorders

The foods you eat are designed to supply the body with energy. The body breaks down foods and transforms them into energy. Refined carbohydrates can supply you with a quick dose of energy; however, soon you will be crashing and burning as your blood sugar levels spike and then plummet. Afterward, you will feel exhausted and hungry. Rather than eating sugary snacks, opt for high fiber, high protein snacks to help regulate your energy levels and your glucose levels.

Exercise Recovery

A snack after a vigorous workout helps speed up muscle recovery and replenishes your energy levels. Exercises like weight lifting and aerobic exercises create stress in your body. Properly recovering following a workout help tissues heal properly and lead to improved performance.

Many individuals think they should eat high protein foods right after a workout; however, vigorous exercise causes lactic acid to build up in the body. Protein is acidic, which can increase inflammation. Instead, opt for an alkaline snack like fruit, rice cakes, or oatmeal. Then, about 30 minutes later, eat some protein. When choosing an after-workout snack, try to choose one that contains essential nutrients like magnesium to help relieve your tired, achy muscles.

Weight Maintenance

Frequent snacking of candy, cookies, and chips offers no benefits. These snacks do not contain the nutrients your body needs like vitamin D, iron, and calcium. Balanced snacks can help fill in nutritional gaps and curb your appetite, which can prevent you from overeating at mealtimes. You want to choose healthy, low-calorie snacks to help avoid weight gain. Some great snacks include fruits, vegetables, eggs, lean meat, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.

Planning Your Snacks

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Planning healthy snacks can help you avoid reaching for unhealthy snacks that are filled with calories and void of nutrition. Planning begins before you go to the grocery store. Write down a list of snacks that you would enjoy and then go shopping. As soon as you get home, chop up your fruits and veggies, and portion them into individual snack sized containers. Doing this provides you with a grab and go snack.

Your snacks should be approximately 200 calories. The best snacks are those that are low in fat and contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Vegetables and fruits are great options. If you need something more substantial, choose whole grain crackers or a piece of toast. You can also opt for healthy proteins like nuts, oatmeal, nut butter, boiled eggs, cheese, and yogurt.

Whole Grains

Whole grains contain nutrients like B vitamins, fiber, magnesium, protein, iron, manganese, and zinc. Replacing refined grains with whole grains can help decrease your risk of chronic illnesses like stroke, obesity, and heart disease. Some great examples of whole grains include:

  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Freekeh
  • Millet
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Wheatberry
  • Whole rye
  • Wild rice

Nut Butters

In the past, you could only find peanut butter. Today, there are several nut butters on the market that provide you with a healthy snack. Some of the most common nut butters include almond butter, cashew butter, walnut butter, and hazelnut butter.

Fruits

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Fruits provide you with a host of nutrients, including potassium, folic acid, and vitamin C. Some of the best fruits to include in your diet are berries, peaches, bananas, citrus fruits, and melons.

Vegetables

Vegetables are great sources of nutrients, including potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and folic acid. The dietary fiber in veggies can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce cholesterol levels, and improve bowel function. Click here to learn more about the nutritional benefits of vegetables.

Eggs

Eggs are rich in a number of nutrients and offer you an affordable high-quality protein. Eggs are filled with vitamins A, D, E, B6, B12, and K. In addition to this, eggs contain zinc, copper, iron, betaine, and choline.

Seafood

Seafood contains a variety of essential nutrients, including omega 3 fatty acids, DHA, and EPA. Seafood helps improve immune function, heart health, and brain health.

Beans

Beans are a great source of protein and are filled with nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, iron, folate, potassium, and zinc. Beans can be added to almost any meal as a side dish or added to soups, salads, pasta, and chili. Some examples of beans include lentils, white beans, red beans, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans.

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Yogurt can be a very healthy snack; however, it is important to note that not all yogurts are created equally. Some yogurts are laden with sugar and artificial flavorings and colorings. When shopping for yogurt opt for plain or original flavored yogurt that has live and active cultures to improve immunity and boost your health.

Make healthy snacking an important part of your diet. Choose snacks that are low calorie, filling, and nutrient dense. Learning how to eat healthily is the first step toward optimal health. Our integrative nutritionists can help you with customized meal plans to help boost your energy levels, increase nutrition intake and maintain your ideal weight