For active people, snacking between meals is often no problem at all. In fact, it may be the best thing you can do to ward off extreme hunger at meal time. Feeling over hungry just before a meal can lead to eating too quickly and eating too much. If you are dining out in a famished state, you may order more food than you really need and your choices may be loaded with calories, sugar and unhealthy fat. To prevent the sometimes vicious cycle of over hunger and over eating at meals, consider these tips for snacking.
Tip 1: Get in tune with your body’s hunger and satiety cues.
Check out this hunger rating scale to learn about the best times to eat a snack or meal. Usually eating when you are mildly hungry or a level 3-4 is best. Also, it’s best to stop eating when you feel mildly full at about a level 5-6. Remember that you only need a snack (or a meal) when you are hungry. Using this scale may help you to avoid mindless, habitual snacking that isn’t related to hunger.
Tip 2: Plan a snack before a lengthy exercise session.
If you typically workout on your way home from work, you most likely will need to have a healthy snack an hour or so in advance. You’ll find that you will have more energy for exercise and your workout will be more productive. A pre-workout snack is timed best when it’s eaten 1-2 hours before you begin. So eat something small and healthy before you hit the gym, go for a long walk or do your exercise routine so you can keep your mind on fitness instead of food cravings!
Tip 3: Plan a snack before a long commute.
If you have a long commute home and a couple hours before you will have your dinner, it’s most likely a good idea to have a healthy snack late afternoon before your work day comes to an end. This can help you to avoid unhealthy fast food choices that may tempt you as you make your way home.
Tip 4: Make your snack a healthy one.
A healthy snack is one that is around 150 to 200 calories and that provides you with nutrients that help fuel your body like lean protein and complex carbs. Quality carbohydrates include those found in fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Choose lean protein like the type found in beans, low-fat dairy, whole grains and nuts. Include healthy fats like those found in seeds, nuts and avocado. Looking for some healthy snack options? We polled our registered dietitian coaches and asked them about their favorite snack options. Here is what they said:
- Nut butter on an apple, pear or a couple of figs
- Hummus dip with raw veggies
- Green smoothie
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Handful of nuts, any kind
- Chia pudding
- Cottage cheese with blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- Homemade salsa and baked corn tortilla chips with guacamole
- Frozen banana with dark chocolate syrup drizzle
- Homemade popcorn sprinkled with different spices (black pepper, Italian seasoning, chili lime seasoning etc.)
With a little planning and preparation, you can make sure to have the right snack available at the right time. And, you can begin to avoid extreme hunger and fullness that may be getting in the way of your optimal health.
In good health,