Healthy Between Meal Options
Intelligent snacking between meals is an important life skill everyone should learn. It's one of the secret things fit people do to stay in shape. The way it works is remarkably simple.
A couple hours after breakfast, much of the food that was in your stomach has been digested and used up. You probably aren't hungry yet, so it's the perfect time to eat a 100-200 calorie snack. It only takes a minute, but that snack can help blunt feelings of hunger. When lunchtime comes around, you'll be able to resist the call of fat filled fast food and choose something a little healthier.
A couple hours after lunch, it often gets difficult to concentrate as your energy levels start dropping again. Eat a little snack and within minutes your brain will have the nutrients it needs to kick back into high gear.
When work ends, it may still be another hour or two before dinner. To make sure you don't sit on the couch and stare at the TV all night, give your body another snack. Then use that energy boost to haul your body to the gym, start preparing a healthy dinner or get those chores around the house finished.
Eaten at proper intervals, snacks can help you stop food cravings, sharpen your concentration and give you more energy when you need it. Here are a few snack food ideas to try and a couple to avoid.
Pre-packaged 100-calorie Packs of cookies, chips or candy should be avoided. Yes, they're convenient. Yes, they taste pretty good. Unfortunately they're nothing but empty calories of sugar and fat. What makes a snack "smart" is choosing one that gives your body something beneficial. Snacks with fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein are all things that you'll get a sustained boost from. Cookies, chips and candy, no matter how they're packaged are still empty calories.
Pudding Cups and Lower-fat, Lower-sugar Yogurts are convenient snacks that taste more like an indulgence. Nicely packaged in individual containers, brands like Jell-O pudding cups have as little as 60 calories per serving and virtually no fat or sugar. Buy a few and store them in your refrigerator at work or home.
Vegetables are on everyone's list of healthy snack foods; the trick is choosing ones that aren't boring. Baby carrots don't require any preparation and they're already a bite-sized package. Celery alone is bland, but put a tablespoon of peanut butter on it and top with a few raisins, suddenly you've got a treat called "ants on a log." Snap peas and cucumber are tasty just the way they are. Raw cauliflower, broccoli and cherry tomatoes can be made more exciting just by adding a little dressing to dip them in. Choose lower fat and lower sodium options like Annie's Naturals Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette, Ken's Healthy Options Caesar Vinaigrette or Hidden Valley Ranch Fat Free.
Fruits are a really versatile option. Oranges, apples, grapes and bananas can be easily added to a snack bag or lunch box. If you have refrigeration, you can freeze chunks of melon, pineapple or watermelon. A handful of berries taste great one at a time or mixed in with yogurt or cereals. If you like to use a juicer on your fruits, make sure to drink the pulp because that's where most of the healthy fiber is.
Oatmeals and Cereals aren't just for breakfast anymore. You can now get sugar free instant oatmeals that require nothing more than a bowl and some hot water. Quaker and McCann's are two brands we like. Another option is pouring cereal into small individual serving bags. A cup of Kashi Go-Lean Crunch or Low-Fat Granola are two of our favorites. Whatever brands you choose, look for ones that have whole grains in them.
Nuts are a favorite for many people, but they can be a tricky option. Several brands are bathed in salt or coated in sugars. Look for ones with no coatings and no salt. Measure out a serving beforehand because nuts tend to be high in calories. If you're really being careful, buy nuts (like walnuts) still in the shell. The extra time it takes to open them will slow you down so you don't eat as much.
Popcorn has been found to contain very high levels of disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols. They’re found in the hulls, the pieces that often get stuck in your teeth. A single serving of popcorn actually has more than twice the polyphenols as a similar serving of most fruits or vegetables. Popcorn is also high in fiber, just make sure you’re eating air-popped that’s not coated in salt.
Protein Bars can make good snacks, just look for ones with less than 250 calories and 10 grams of sugar per serving. Good commercial brands include the low sugar Detour and Tri-O-Plex bars. If you want to save a little money and great really creative, make a batch of homemade protein bars and freeze them.
Protein Shakes tend to be a little higher in calories, so you'll need to choose carefully if you're on a very low calorie diet. A couple of the national brands that offer a reasonable balance of taste and nutrition include Pure Protein and Extreme Protein. One of the best low-calorie brands is any of the Iso-Pure flavors. However, just like the protein bars, if you've got the time you can save some money by making your own.
The keys to snacking success are preparation and moderation. Get some healthy options in your home and make sure they're broken down into convenient pre-measured servings. Then, don't eat everything in one sitting. Over time you'll notice the snacks help you better regulate your mood, your energy and your ability to control when and what you want to eat.
To help you out, I've posted more than two dozen protein shakes, more than a dozen protein bars and a couple hundred other healthy meals in the recipe section of this website. CLICK HERE for our recipes. I know they're good because every recipe and picture you see was prepared and taste tested by the staff at WeBeFit. Happy snacking!
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