Snack time, unlike what you might read on social media, is not "unhealthy" or "toxic" to your daily routine. In fact, snacks can be the ideal way to fill in nutritional gaps each day when your meals did not quite provide enough fiber, protein, or healthy fats, for example. Or a snack can simply satisfy your sweet tooth or salty desires in a small way in between mealtime. Read below to learn about what a healthy snack is or could be, simple healthy snack ideas, as well as three snack products that I recently tried that are guaranteed to flavor your day.
What is a healthy snack?
A healthy snack is one that serves an important purpose as part of a healthy lifestyle. This purpose can be one of many of the following reasons:
Filling a nutritional gap
If you feel you don't meet the daily requirements of fiber daily, which is about 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories consumed, then you can use snack time to help meet this need. In the same way, you can use snacks to consume more protein or more healthy fats if you feel you did not eat enough during your meals.
Providing a chance to try new foods
If you want to try new foods but are afraid they will go to waste at mealtime if you don't like them, then snacks are a perfect way to try them. Just cook a small portion of the food you want to try and use it as an in-between meal snack to test the waters of your palate. You could even try the same food prepared in different ways to see if you prefer a particular cooking method.
An example of this is carrots. You could try carrots in their raw form alone or with Greek yogurt dressing or hummus. Then, you could try it roasted in the oven with olive oil and salt. And for a third variation, you could try it boiled in some bouillon for a softer veggie dish. Once you have realized what way you enjoy a certain food item best, you can cook larger portions for a later mealtime.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a food item as a snack for the pure enjoyment of the food. In this way, you can enjoy foods not typically viewed as "healthy" such as sweets or crunchy chips, can fit into your daily routine as a way to enjoy favorite foods in moderation without consuming excess calories.
In the way of eating known as intuitive eating, which helps people develop a healthier relationship with food and their bodies, individuals can learn to stop putting labels on food. Instead, they can simply enjoy foods their body desires by listening to their hunger and fullness cues.
Research shows that intuitive eating results in greater psychological well-being in women and can foster long-term healthy behavior change over time. In fact, a 2021 study found that intuitive eating as compared to other weight-related behaviors had a more positive impact on healthy eating behaviors five years after the initial analysis.
Celebration of life events
Just like with simple enjoyment, you can also use snacks as a way to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other life events. Instead of avoiding sweets like cake and cookies during such times, you can have a small portion as a way to celebrate and enjoy fun treats without consuming too many calories or sugar, for example.
Some wellness sites and influencers may tell you that sugar is "addictive," but the science says otherwise. Research shows that the only studies that have really been done on this topic were animal studies, which are not as high-quality as human studies.
And in these studies, excessive intake of sugar was only seen in those animals that received sugar intermittently versus those that had unlimited access to it. This reveals that what is observed as an addiction may very well just be a reaction to being restricted from a certain food item. Not to mention that research shows sugar "cravings" are short-lived, whereas drug cravings are long-term. This is just one more reason why allowing all foods in your daily routine and listening to your hunger cues, as seen in intuitive eating, is a healthier, more long-term method to healthy living.
Pre- and post-workout nutrition
Research shows that consuming a carbohydrate-containing snack prior to exercise can help improve performance during long-term exercise, or a workout of 30 minutes or more. After exercise, a snack containing a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein, such as that found in a glass of chocolate milk, can help reduce muscle damage incurred after exercise. Not to mention that consuming a high-glycemic meal, or one that contains carbohydrate-containing foods with less blood glucose stabilizing fiber and fat, can help improve sleep duration and sleep efficiency after a workout.
Supports gut health
A 2019 study shows that eating snacks can help reduce digestive and metabolic overloads as compared to larger meals. Therefore, further research needs to be done to see if eating 4 to 5 balanced snacks daily may be more beneficial to human health when it comes to such factors.
To assist with weight management
For those individuals that are elderly, sick, or just don't have a large appetite, snacks can help make sure such people consume enough nutrients daily. A 2018 study found that nutritional supplements that are concentrated in calories and protein can help increase energy and protein intake in older adults as compared to traditional nutritional care in an inpatient setting. In this case, oral nutrition supplements such as nutrient-fortified, high-protein shakes and drinks can replace meals to provide adequate nutrition until a person's appetite improves.
In turn, such beverages can help improve quality of life outcomes and prevent weight loss in those that are chronically ill. Studies show that such beverages can also help underweight children gain weight and support healthy growth markers.
Such oral nutrition supplements may help provide vitamins, minerals, and protein to those on the go who don't have time to eat a sit-down meal. In addition, such high-protein versions of such drinks can act as effective pre- or post-workout snacks.
Simple healthy snacks ideas
Now that you have an idea of how snacks can support health, read below to learn about some simple and balanced snack ideas you can add to your daily routine today. The following snacks contain a good source of fiber and protein, which helps it act as a satisfying snack with potential to fill nutritional gaps in your daily eating routine.
Raw vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or sliced bell pepper with hummus or Greek yogurt
Sliced apples, pears, or banana with nut or seed butter
Greek yogurt with blueberries or sliced strawberries
Whole-grain crackers with sliced cheese
One cup of grapes with a mozzarella or cheddar cheese stick
Protein powder blended with one cup of soy milk; soy milk contains 3 grams of fiber per cup
Turkey, beef, or seitan jerky with a piece of fruit or a cup of diced fruit
Three new healthy snack products
If you want to mix up your health snack routine, try the following three products that I recently tried to add flavor to your in-between meals.
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Pamela's Whenever Bars
Reminiscent of the chewy texture and sweetness of cookies, these Pamela Whenever Bars provide a balance of 2 grams each of fiber and protein with only 7 grams of added sugar per 180-calorie bar. Flavors include Chocolate Chip Coconut, Cranberry Almond, and Raisin Walnut Spice. And as a bonus, these snack bars are gluten-free, so are safe for anyone with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Wild Planet Foods Tuna and Sardines
If you're missing healthy fats in your daily routine, then Wild Planet Foods has a variety of delicious fatty fish products primed for your snack time. Wild Planet Foods carries snack or lunch time favorites like canned albacore tuna or skipjack tuna, as well as convenient protein and omega-3 rich canned, lightly sardines soaked in extra virgin olive oil. Other Wild Planet Food products include canned wild white anchovies in olive oil and canned mackerel in extra virgin olive oil.
If you want a sweet snack without the added sugar, then Ross Chocolates is for you. The Dark Chocolate flavor provides an antioxidant-rich profile with a bitter and subtly sweet flavor. Meanwhile, the Sea Salt and Milk Chocolate flavors provide a variety of flavor profiles depending on your preference. Ross Chocolates are sweetened with steviol glycoside and erythritol, which are both safe to consume. And erythritol is in fact not only safe to eat, but also acts as an antioxidant and does not increase blood glucose or insulin levels.
Final note on healthy snacking
Snacking is a great way to try new foods you have never tried before in a small size so you can see if you like it. Having snacks in between meals is also a great way to help your body receive nutrients it needs that it didn't receive at mealtimes. Therefore, if anyone ever tells you that snacking is "bad," feel free to send them my way because they obviously have been brainwashed by diet culture and do not realize what important role snacks can play in any healthy lifestyle.
For more nutrition information and advice, stay tuned to the Lighttrack Nutrition blog at www.lighttracknutrition.com/blog.