You’re probably thinking, “Wait…isn’t snacking a big no-no during the holiday season?” We tend to stuff ourselves on indulgent, calorie-laden holiday meals and treats during this most wonderful time of the year, so why are we encouraging you to snack? The fact of the matter is sensible snacking can actually help you consume fewer calories throughout the holiday season.
There are many opinions to be had about snacking in general. Some people subscribe to the theory that three square meals a day with no snacks is ideal. Others believe that three smaller meals and two sensible snacks a day is the way to go. Whatever your philosophy is, making those meals and snacks sensible ones is the main takeaway. But what are general good practices for sensible snacking?
When speaking in terms of calories, a snack should be around 100 calories (give or take). Doesn’t sound like much, I know. But if you snack smart, 100 calories can go a long way. The trick is to choose the right snacks.
I’ve got two words for you: fiber and protein (ok, maybe that’s three words if you count ‘and’). Anyway, it’s common knowledge that fiber and protein help you feel fuller for longer. A fiber or protein-rich snack will certainly hold you over until your next meal. Which is precisely why this type of sensible snacking can help you control your calorie intake during the holidays. Have a healthy, satiating, protein or fiber-rich snack before you head out to that holiday party and you’re less likely to over-indulge once you get there. However, if you’re new to this type of snacking, finding the appropriate snacks can sometimes be a challenge.
We are a society of convenience foods, so often times our snacks become whatever is most convenient. When you scan the shelves at the grocery store, there are not a lot of fiber and protein-rich snacks to choose from. So this either forces us to get a little creative, or it resigns us to unhealthy snacking. Let’s get creative!
Why fiber and protein? In our previous Spotlight On Fiber article, we explained why fiber makes you feel full. While your body doesn’t necessarily absorb it, soluble fiber forms a gel-like material when combined with water and, in turn, slows down digestion. A slower digestion rate will make you feel fuller for longer.
After several studies conducted on the connection between protein and satiety, British researchers discovered a hormone called PYY that gets released in the small intestines in response to a high-protein meal. PYY slows down the rate at which the stomach delivers food to the intestines, allowing the rate of digestion to slow, making you feel fuller for longer. It also allows the small intestines to absorb more nutrients from the food you eat.
If you’re stuck for ideas snacks offering more fiber and protein, take a grassroots approach and go back to basics like beans, legumes, cheese and nuts. So what would a good nutritious snack be? Trail mix or lentil chips would be protein-rich snacks. Just make sure when doling out your portions that you read the nutrition information to determine the serving size. A 100-calorie serving of nuts might not be as many as you think!
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the task of smart snacking, there are companies out there who takeout the guesswork of healthy snacking for you. Mediterranean Snacks, for example, offers single serve bags of their lentil crackers, chips, and veggie medley chips and straws. The bottom line is that it’s easy to feel good about snacking when you’re making smart snacking choices!