Is it habit or hunger? Before you grab a snack, stop and assess how you feel. If your stomach is grumbling or you can’t focus, you likely need to eat. If you feel anxious, stressed, or bored, you may be eating out of habit. Find an activity to distract you such as making a phone call or taking a short walk.
Fill nutrient gaps. Healthy snacks can boost nutrient intake. For example, if you have difficulty getting enough vitamin C or calcium during meals, a small smoothie made with strawberries and low-fat milk, or bell pepper strips with a yogurt-based dip will help fill in your nutrient gaps.
It’s all about balance. Snacks balanced in nutrients have staying power to get you through to the next meal. Concentrate on protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Fruit is good for you, but a piece of fruit alone may not keep you full. Add nut butter, low fat yogurt, or roasted chickpeas for a more balanced, filling snack.
Keep them low in calories. Nutrition professionals recommend that snacks contain about 200 calories. If you are eating large, high-calorie snacks, it’s time to evaluate your regular meals to determine why they are leaving you so hungry.
Timing is everything. It’s natural to feel hungry every three to four hours so plan snacks with this in mind. If you exercise during your lunch break or after work, be sure you eat your small snack at least one hour before your workout.
Liquid calories count. If you eat an apple and almond butter as an afternoon snack, and an hour later you drink a soda, you’ve almost doubled your calorie intake. Liquid calories count, too. Stick with sparkling water or unsweetened iced tea to keep both your calorie and sugar intake in check.
Find the right substitute. Sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy -- we all have cravings. For each unhealthy snack you crave, find a substitute that provides the same eating experience. Try low-sodium nuts or pretzels for salty and crunchy, or low-sugar dried fruit for sweet and chewy.
Measure it. Never eat your snack from a bag or box unless it’s a single-size portion. Pay attention to serving sizes, and count, measure, or weigh your food before you eat.
Track every bite. Did you have half a bagel at your morning meeting and then a few nuts at the bar during happy hour? Don’t forget to record these nibbles and bites. These calories can quickly add up.