How to Snack Smarter
Three squares a day? That’s old thinking. The new way to stay lean, conquer cravings, and get all your daily nutrients is to master the mini meal.
3. It ensures you get all your vitamins.
"Snacking is a great way to fit in all the nutrients that your body requires each day," says Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian in Atlanta and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Case in point: The average American woman doesn’t get the recommended 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, so Moore suggests seeking out snacks rich in the mineral―for example, low-fat yogurt or almonds, which also pack in more protein and fiber. Ellie Krieger, host of the Food Network’s Healthy Appetite and author of the cookbook So Easy ($30, amazon.com), recommends including a fruit or a vegetable in every meal and snack to get the nutrients you need. She notes that a crunchy apple or a juicy orange can boost your satisfaction for fewer calories while also adding important antioxidants to your diet. For a savory snack, Krieger dips celery into Sabra Hummus, and for a sweet fix, she dips fruit into Yoplait Yoplus fiber-enriched yogurt (both are widely available at supermarkets).
4. It puts you in a good mood.
"When blood sugar levels get too low, you can become irritable and have trouble concentrating," says Gullo. "So for mood control and cognitive and metabolic efficiency, healthy snacking between meals helps." Choose any snack you like (choking down celery sticks doesn’t do anything for your mood if you hate them), as long as it follows the experts’ basic guidelines.
5. It foils even the strongest cravings.
"If you are driving home from work and are hungry, every fast-food restaurant looks good," says Moore. "But if you play defense and have a snack before you leave, then you can hold out for dinner" without hitting the drive-through. And there’s a healthy snack to kill every craving. If you lust for crunchy, salty treats, try three-quarters of a cup of shelled edamame, which has about six grams of fiber, 12 grams of protein, and only 150 calories. Live for desserts? Gullo tops a 90-calorie Van’s Multigrain Waffle with fat-free whipped topping and strawberries for a low-calorie treat. And if you opt for health by chocolate, Krieger suggests mixing cocoa powder (the kind for baking) and honey into a paste, then pouring hot nonfat milk over it to make a hot chocolate that’s a good source of protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients and antioxidants. "There’s research that suggests chocolate milk is an excellent recovery drink after high-intensity exercise because it offers a balance of protein and carbs that your body needs," says Krieger. So when cravings attack, have a plan for giving in intelligently. "It’s all about knowing the foods that satisfy you," says Gullo, so you don’t feel deprived and end up eating more than you need or even want. "Strategy is better than willpower," he says.