I’m one of those people who functions best on three meals a day plus two snacks. I find it keeps my energy levels stable throughout the day so I’m not cranky and ravenous each time I sit down to eat. It’s been like that pretty much since I can remember, and my hunger pangs are like clockwork.
However, I’ve met plenty of folks who prefer six mini-meals or three square meals with nothing in between. Others prefer to graze all day. I’ve also met a lot of people who insist that two meals is what works for them. A few have even said that they only eat one meal a day!
Dietitians have many different points of view of what’s really best. Though many still recommend three meals plus a few small snacks, in light of the obesity epidemic, there is a growing concern that people are snacking too much and taking in excess calories.
One of the main problems with Americans’ snacking habits are the types of foods and the portion sizes. Not only are people snacking more than ever (a reported 20 percent of daily calories come from snacks), but they’re snacking on greater amounts of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods than they were thirty years ago. Our increasingly busy (but not active) lifestyle doesn’t exactly make it easy to sit down and enjoy a meal.
While many people would do well to snack less, it’s possible to snack healthfully. The key is to keep it within your daily calorie needs and to choose foods that will fill you up and give you more than empty calories.
Spreading your calories out over the course of the day helps maintain blood sugar levels and prevent overeating later in the day. For example, eating very little during the day often leads to overeating at dinner because you’re so hungry. If your meals are around 400 or 500 calories, then snacks should usually be between 100 and 250 calories, depending on your needs.
Here are a few healthy snack ideas:
- veggies and hummus
- an apple and 1-2 tbsp almond butter
- yogurt with high-fiber cereal and/or fruit
- 1/4 cup of nuts
- half a whole wheat peanut butter & banana sandwich
- a small bowl of cereal
- a smoothie made with yogurt or milk and real fruit
- an apple or pear or a handful of grapes plus 1 oz cheese
One of my weekday staples is yogurt with fruit and ground flax. Sometimes I sprinkle on a little granola or add a tablespoon of cocoa powder.
What are some of your favorite go-to snacks?