Planning, intention can lead to better snacking

Do you snack with a purpose? One of the latest food trends is called intentional snacking, and it appeals to people who want more from their snacks than simply satisfying a craving.

While it can be tempting to reach for a candy bar or bag of chips, a quick sugar rush and empty calories will leave you groggier than before, said registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer, author of “Eat Your Way to Happiness.” Intentional snacking is the opposite of mindless eating, or simply reaching for something to eat because you’re bored, Somer said.

Snacking can be considered a national pastime. Nearly all Americans, 94 percent, snack once a day, according to a recent Snacking Motivations and Attitudes report from Mintel, a global market research firm. Half (50 percent) of adults snack two to three times per day, and 70 percent agree that anything can be considered a snack these days.

Unfortunately, “so much of what we grab, to be honest, is crap. The No. 1 snack is potato chips,” Somer said.

Intentional snacking requires a person to think rationally about what they’re putting in their body, Somer said. “If we follow some basic rules, it might help our waistlines,” she said.

The problem is that it’s so easy to eat poorly.

“It’s harder or sometimes impossible to find healthier options in vending machines and drive-throughs,” Somer said.

Plan ahead – To be a better snacker, make it easier and more convenient with a little planning. “You want it to be simple to snack well, not complicated,” Somer said. Take the time to cut up a platter of fruit or vegetables and put it front and center where you and the kids can see it. Cut extra so you’ll have a healthy snack for later.

Make it a mini-meal – Instead of a traditional treat, make your snacks more satisfying and well-rounded. Include fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and some sort of protein. Your mini-meal can include a handful of nuts, low-fat cheese or yogurt, or peanut butter spread on apple slices or celery sticks.

Take it with you – Heading out of the house? Bring your snacks in your pocket, purse or backpack. You won’t reach for a candy bar in desperation later in the day, and you’ll save money not buying junk food.

Watch out for snack bars – While they may be packaged to appeal to healthy eaters, “90 percent of energy bars are glorified candy bars” filled with calories, fat and sugar, Somer said. Look for a better bar without highly processed ingredients. Somer suggests a Kind bar, paired with a banana or piece of fruit.

Smooth snacks – Sugary sodas, juices and sports drinks are high in calories and low in nutrition. Instead, make a smoothie with fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt. “Blend it in the morning and bring it with you in a to-go cup to be enjoyed later in the day,” Somer said.

Snack intentionally – “Listen to your body and snack only when you’re hungry, not simply because there’s a candy jar at the bank or someone offers you a muffin,” Somer said. “Don’t snack just because it’s in front of you.”

Written by Melissa Erickson. Photo by 123RF.

LinkedinGoogle Plus