Snacking may be part of a healthy, balanced diet. So you may ask, “What should I eat for a snack”?
The answer is what, and how much, to eat for a snack depends on why and how long your body needs to be fueled. First, let’s review the 3 kinds of foods, protein, carbohydrate and fat, and how they function in your body.
Protein, usually known for its muscle-building capacity, is complex. It digests slowly in our body, leaving you with a sense of physical fullness. Foods high in protein such as eggs, cheese or Greek yogurt, can be handy to include when you need to stay full for a couple of hours.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. They digest more quickly than protein or fat, providing you with the quick energy to power our brain and muscles. Cereal, crackers, fruit or bread can give your body and mind the boost it needs to power through the rest of your day, or through a workout.
Fats digest slowly, similar to protein, but also play an important role in helping you feel satisfied after eating. Adding foods like avocado or nuts helps your brain turn off the signal to seek more food.
For a snack meant to fuel you for a shorter time, 1-2 hours, you’ll probably need 1-2 food groups. Perhaps you should eat only a carbohydrate, or if you’re a little bit hungrier then go for a protein and a fat, or a protein and a carbohydrate. For a snack that needs to keep you fueled for longer, more than 2 hours, you’ll likely need all 3 food groups. This is like a mini-meal, which can help fill you up (protein), energize you (carbohydrates), and satisfy you (fat) until you are ready to eat again.
Below are a few snack ideas to get you started.
Snacks to fuel for 1-2 hours
–A piece of fresh fruit
–Nuts and dried fruit
–Whole wheat crackers and low-fat cheddar cheese
–High fiber cereal with low fat milk
–Avocado toast with sliced tomato
–Hummus with carrots and crackers
–Hard-boiled egg in whole wheat pita
Snacks to fuel for more than 2 hours
–Whole wheat crackers with peanut butter and a handful of grapes
–Greek yogurt mixed with nuts and cereal
–Veggie burger on whole wheat bread
–Deli slices, low fat cheese and crackers
–Oatmeal mixed with peanut butter, nuts and dried fruit
–Glass of low-fat milk and a banana
–1 cup of bean soup with a sprinkle of low-fat cheese