It happens every day around 4:00 pm. I start wandering around the kitchen, opening and closing the pantry door, then shuffling over to the fridge and stare blankly into it. “God I’m hungry,” I think. But I don’t want a full meal just a little something to tide me over until dinner.
If I’m not careful this is when I’ll pound down a pound of cheese, squirt whipped cream directly from the can into my mouth or dig through the freezer for my stash of raw cookie dough and devour, I don’t know, six or seven cookies.
I don’t mean to overeat at this time or reach for bad food options, but when I’m hungry it’s really difficult to make good choices.
This is exactly why experts say you should eat five small meals a day—three main meals and two snacks—to keep your blood sugar level even throughout the day.
Knowing that my afternoon snack attack erupts regularly, like Old Faithful, I stock my house with good choices. Saving the whipped cream and cookies for quiet moments of celebration.
Here are some of my favorite healthy snacks that keep me feeling satisfied without ruining my dinner, or my waistline.
WHEN I CRAVE SOMETHING SWEET:
This is always my go to option for me and the kids. (One of the myriad of reasons they hate me. “Can I have a snack?” they ask me. And my consistently irritating reply is, “Sure, there’s plenty of fruit in the fridge.” It’s amazing how often they decide they’re really not that hungry.)
This week I’m stocked with peaches, strawberries, kiwi, blueberries and cantaloupe. And here’s a trick to get your kids (and spouse) to eat more fruit…cut it up. I’m telling you, it’s magic. There’s something about a fresh fruit salad that makes people want to dig in.
Don’t have the time or inclination to slice and dice it yourself? Buy it pre-made. Just eat it quickly. I find that the prepared fresh fruit salads in the grocery store are more ripe than the whole fruit so they spoil faster.
Fruit and Yogurt
Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt. Try drizzling some honey on your favorite plain, fat free brand and for an added kick throw on some fresh fruit. Or for a real treat, make a smoothie with frozen fruit. Click here for my favorite recipe. (Scroll down, the recipe is at the end of the article.)
WHEN I CRAVE SOMETHING SALTY:
This is another staple on my kitchen counter. The problem of course is that nuts are pretty heavy in calories so you have to be really careful about how much you eat. Limit yourself to a single handful. If you can’t stop at one handful, nosh on pistachios—you can have around 50 nuts for just 160 calories.
Popcorn is a naturally high fiber food. Snacks with fiber are great choices because fiber is one of those nutrients that makes us feel full. Popcorn will fill you up and, an entire bag of Act II 94% Fat Free Popcorn has only 130 calories.
WHEN DINNER IS HOURS AWAY AND I NEED A HEAVIER SNACK:
Bars can be really filling and delicious but you have to READ THE LABELS. Just because it comes in a bar form doesn’t mean it’s good for you or that it’s low calorie.
I find that I need about 10 grams of protein in a bar otherwise it doesn’t fill me up. And I keep the calorie count to around 200 per bar. (If you’re not careful you can pick up a bar that packs over 400 calories! That’s the same as a Chick-fil-A fried chicken sandwich. Yikes!)
Also, more protein is not necessarily better. Those bars that tout “30 grams of protein,” typically have a lot more calories and they are really designed for bodybuilding, not weight loss. Plus, most of them taste horrible.
I like Zone Perfect, Balance, and Kind bars.
Cheese and Crackers
I have to be careful with this snack and only pull out the number of crackers I want to eat, otherwise I keep reaching into the box and pulling out more!
My favorite combo is a Triscuit Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil cracker paired with low-fat Havarti cheese. Triscuits are 100% whole grain so enjoying six crackers gives you 22 grams of whole grains (45% of your recommended daily allowance) plus some dietary fiber.