With a busy lifestyle, a girl is always on the move. The only thing she has to keep herself going is often her drive, motivation, and of course, food. Often times, there is no free minute to stop and sit down between meals for a decent pick-me-up, and the on-the-go snack comes in handy. But turns out, snacking is quickly becoming something of a fourth meal instead of what it is supposed to be: fuel to keep your body energized to make it to the next one.
According to a study published in PLoS Medicine, snacking has greatly increased over the last thirty years. In fact, snacks on average account for 580 extra calories every day. If you think about it this way, the so called “snack” is actually a healthy portioned meal. 580 calories (depending on the type of food and level of nutrition) might be the right amount of food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but tacking this many calories onto your daily intake is not nutritious or smart. Data from a nutritional survey taken between 1977 and 2006 shows the average American now consumes a third more calories than they did in the ‘70s.
Even worse news, most of these extra calories are not coming from healthy snacks, they’re coming from beverages. Those extra lattes and sodas can really add up – the data proves it! There’s no reason to completely cut out these treats from your diet, but there is a proper way to snack and take off the obscene amount of extra calories a day. No matter how busy you might be, adding on over 500 calories to your diet is never ideal.
Perhaps this new trend of over-snacking is due to the fact it is simply so easy to do. There is always that tray of free donuts at work, or a candy jar staring you in the face on your desk. To steer clear of the snack attack traps like this, keep yourself satisfied by snacking the right way with the right food.
Since everyone’s day-to-day schedule is always a little different, there might not be a perfect time to snack. The key is to listen to your body; does it feel hungry, or just bored? While you’re sitting at your desk, do you really need to eat, or do you just not feel like working anymore? The first step in snacking right is to know what your body really wants. Just keep in mind the whole point of snacking is to improve your attention span and keep your energy up, not to get out of writing that 10 page paper or finishing a project at work. Snacks also depend on the size of your meals. If you have a smaller breakfast one day and feel that pang of hunger by 10 a.m., go ahead and have something to hold you over until lunch, just keep it portioned correctly.
Once you figure out the best time to snack for your body comes the question of what to munch on. Typically, it is a good idea to keep your overall snack intake to about 200-300 calories a day, just try to keep you daily intake to around 1,500-2,000. To put this in perspective, Americans now eat an average of 2,375 calories a day – way too much snacking!
If you are going for a mid-morning snack, look for something to keep you full until lunch. For this reason, you should go for a high fiber, low sugar snack. Nuts are always a great choice, but this doesn’t give you license to raid the mixed nut can in the break-room. A great idea is to buy the single-serving 100 calories packs of almonds from Blue Diamond – perfect to take on the go and keep portions in control. Never underestimate the power of a good nutrition bar, either. These can be had at any time during the day, but again, keep it high in fiber and low in sugar. All of Kashi’s granola bars have the right amount of both of these. As for an evening snack, go for a classic: popcorn. Popcorn might seem like a junk food, but it can actually be very nutritious if served correctly. Go for the 100-calorie SmartPop mini bags from Orville Redenbacher’s (you’d be amazed how much popcorn is 100 calories) or go even healthier and pop your own kernels. Either way provides you with a satisfyingly salty snack as well as nutritious whole grain.
Snacking can be one of the smartest choices you make all day. In fact, without snacking, you are more likely to overindulge at your next meal. However, it is clear there is a right and wrong way to go about this favorite daily ritual. Snacking adds up, and as long as you keep your portions and calories in check, you can easily avoid the fourth meal and still feel satisfied until your next one.
♥AUTHOR: MEGHAN McCLOSKEY