That is the question. As a registered dietitian and an avid snack connoisseur, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Nibbling on a snack here and there in between meals can satisfy your hunger. This prevents us from getting overly hungry which may then lead to overeating and binging on not-so-healthy options.
Snacks are also a great opportunity to get in an extra serving of fruits or vegetables to help meet our nutritional needs.
The problem that many run into with snacking is choosing foods that have little nutritional value and eating too much. Snacking tends to be a mindless act, especially in social environments. In fact, a recent survey by Food Insight noted that 33% of people snack when they aren’t even hungry.
The key is to choose wisely and snack smart.
6 tips for healthy snacking:
• Practice mindful eating. Before you dig in, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just bored.
• Limit your portions. Aim for roughly 200 calories per snack. Do this by portioning out your snacks into individual servings rather than eating directly out of the package.
• Focus on protein and fiber. Without these nutrients, you’re unlikely to feel full or satisfied until your next meal.
• Be aware of added sugar and fat in protein bars.
• Fill the gaps. Do your meals lack fruits, veggies or dairy? Use snacks to incorporate these food groups!
• Plan ahead and make your snacks portable. Being able to take snacks on the go will prevent you from making a trip to the vending machine or closest drive-through or convenience store (money saver!).
Healthy snack ideas:
• Rice cake with peanut butter
• Bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, or snap peas with hummus
• Greek yogurt with berries
• Whole grain crackers with cheese
• Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, or walnuts
• Cottage cheese
• Apple slices or banana with peanut butter
• Hard boiled eggs - experiment with different toppings such as mustard or sriracha
• Turkey sticks (think, healthy beef jerky)
• Air-popped popcorn
Feeling adventurous? Try this healthy, but delicious, version of nachos. Enjoy two nacho boats for only 125 calories and 16 grams of protein.
Skinny Bell Pepper Nachos
3 bell peppers
1 pound lean ground turkey, or chicken
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup salsa
1 cup cheddar cheese, reduced-fat
Remove seeds, core, and membrane from bell peppers then slice each one into 6 vertical pieces where they dip down. Set sliced bell peppers aside.
Cook ground turkey over medium-high heat, breaking up as it cooks. Drain off any fat.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine cooked turkey with spices and salsa. Evenly distribute mixture into the bell pepper boats, top with cheese.
Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and peppers are hot. Optional ingredients: sliced jalapeño peppers, diced avocado, fat-free Greek yogurt or sour cream, or sliced green onions.
Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.
NOTE: If you prefer much softer bell peppers, add a few tablespoons water to the bottom of a large casserole dish, add filled nachos, cover tightly with foil and bake 15 minutes.
*Recipe adapted from skinnyms.com
Jordan Luxa is a Food, Nutrition, and Health Educator for Nebraska Extension in Washington County. She can be contacted at 402-426-9455, email@example.com, or visit the Washington County Extension website at www.washington.unl.edu.