By: Heather Mangieri, RDN
What comes to mind when you hear the word snack?
Do visions of crackers, chips or pretzels fill your head? Or maybe you think about nuts, beef jerky or a piece of raw fruit.
Snacks, or mini-meals as I prefer to call them, play an important role in your daily meal plan. Not only do they help to tame hunger between meals, they contribute to your daily intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
That is, they should.
Yet surveys suggest that cookies, snack cakes and ice cream are among the most popular snack foods. While these foods provide plenty of calories, they fail at delivering the nourishment that snacks are meant to provide.
So how do you create a snack worth consuming?
Don’t just feed hunger; feed your body
1.) It should include at least two, preferably 3 of the macronutrients carbohydrates, protein and fat. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are all important but they all have different roles in the body. Carbohydrates provide fuel, not only for working muscles but also for your brain. Proteins provide the amino acids needed for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. The body needs a certain amount of fat to function, but as part of a snack, a small amount provides flavor and helps to keep you satisfied until your next meal.
2.) Snacks should contribute a decent dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. Snacks are often necessary to meet daily nutritional needs. When building a snack think about how it is contributing to your growth, development, health and hunger. Not just your hunger or boredom.
3.) It should be calorie controlled, between 200-400 calories depending on your specific needs and goals. If you need fewer calories, you do not eliminate one of the foods you decrease the portion size of all foods so that you still get a good variety of nutrients. For example, someone that needs fewer calories might have ½ turkey sandwich and ½ banana as their afternoon snack while someone who needs more would eat a whole turkey sandwich and a whole banana. Or someone who needs fewer calories could use reduced calorie bread while someone who needs more calories could choose a regular variety.
Here are some examples of smarter snacks:
So tell us, what are your favorite foods to snack on?