It’s 2019 and you’re ready for better health. You’ve been putting time and effort into your diet. Grocery shopping for healthy foods, cooking more at home, and eating out less. Great job!
A word of warning – if you aren’t snacking smart, your diet could be heading for disaster! Frequent snacking, especially on foods that lack any nutrition, can increase body weight. Not to mention increases in blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk for heart attack or stroke.
Snack foods are usually highly processed. This means they often contain far too many calories, unhealthy fat, sugars, and sodium. These foods also tend to have little to no nutritional value, vitamins, minerals, or fiber.
This combination is especially dangerous for diabetics as it causes food to be digested more quickly. Without good fats and fiber to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, sugar levels can skyrocket and blood pressure can increase.
Frequency of snacking can also complicate blood sugar management. Snacks give us permission to eat at non-traditional mealtimes. We all know breakfast is in the morning, lunch is in the afternoon, and dinner is at night… snacks however, have become any time free-for-all opportunities to chow down.
Snacking is not evil, and does not have to negatively affect blood sugar. A snack’s purpose is to prevent excessive hunger, give the body an energy boost, and even help to regulate blood sugar.
It’s important to listen to your body; when it needs a little boost, you’ll know. Don’t let yourself get hungry. This is especially important for diabetics. When you skip a meal, your blood sugar will drop. As soon as you eat, it will rise.
The level to which blood sugar rises depends on what you consume. It’s important to choose a snack that will give you the energy you need without spiking your blood sugar. Combine protein, fats, and fiber to get the most out of your snacks. The combination of healthy fats, protein and fiber will not only prevent blood sugar spikes, but will help keep you full and satisfied until your next meal.
For example, trade in that whole banana for a bowl of berries and full-fat plain Greek yogurt. Instead of crackers or potato chips, try air-popped popcorn or a few kale chips. Or up the fat and protein content of your snack with these pepperoni chips.
Some thinly sliced veggies accompanied by a nice hummus or pesto dip won’t weigh you down as the afternoon drags on.
In a rush? An easy grab-on-the-go snack is string cheese with a handful of nuts. Choose full-fat string cheese and some pistachios, cashews, or almonds. Or mix them together for variety.
Believe it or not, snacks can be helpful to your diet instead of hurtful. Snacks can help supplement nutrition that you otherwise wouldn’t have in a standard meal. For example, if you can’t stand the texture of cooked broccoli, dip some raw broccoli into this creamy avocado dip for a cool and crunchy snack.
Eating mindfully also goes a long way when making snacks a positive addition to one’s diet. What is mindful eating you ask? Being aware of what you’re eating, how much you are consuming, and acknowledging the value of the foods you choose.
While it may sound complicated, mindfulness is the foundation of healthy eating. For example, if the TV is on while you snack, your hand could hit the bottom of the bag but you were completely unaware of the amount of food you were consuming. Eliminating distractions can greatly increase mindful eating.
Pre-portioning your snacks can also be helpful. After coming home from the grocery store, go ahead and wash, slice and dice your veggies and fruits and bag them up. Some find it helpful to have a specific drawer in the fridge for fresh, healthful snacks. Super easy to grab and go.
It really is true! Snacking can positively affect your diet goals instead of sabotaging them. A little preparation in combination with mindfulness can have you snacking happy!