3/25/09

Snacks!

Here is another great question from a blog reader...

QUESTION:
I have a generally good idea of what I should be eating on a daily basis - hot cereal in the morning and a balanced lunch and dinner. Where I struggle is in the snack department. I wouldn't say I eat copious amounts of unhealthy snacks, rather the problem is that I don't snack too much at all. I think this is leading to me overeating on my lunch and dinner. If I have fruit I just wind up feeling hungry again so that isn't helping. I know I need to add protein in, but I need some help getting creative with my snacks. For awhile I was eating an apple with natural peanut butter all the time…but that got boring and I quickly dropped that practice. Any suggestions on how to keep things interesting, healthy and satisfying all at the same time?

ANSWER
I can't tell you how many people email me regarding snack ideas. In my opinion, a snack is useful to keep the blood sugar stable. So many times people forget about snacks because meals are over-portioned or too high in fat and there is no desire to snack. Although this may seem like a good thing because you are not eating calories between meals, there is a greater chance that a missed snack will add calories later in the day.
Since Americans LOVE to eat meals (hence why portions are so big), my idea of a filling and healthy snack is a mini meal. I don't find that a piece of fruit is a good snack. Sure, you can have fruit for snacks but an apple or grapes for a snack will leave you hungry and starved well-before dinner.
I recommend that all snacks have a combination of carbs and protein. Instead of choosing bars which lead you to believe that you are receiving a great amount of protein, choose quality protein sources which provide your body with essential amino acids that your body can use for repair. Most protein in packaged food is broken down several times during digestion and that 20g protein bar may give you 5g by the time you are done processing it. However, eggs, milk, whey protein, cottage cheese and beans have a great higher biological value of protein compared to boxed and packaged foods.
Be sure your carbs are complex and high in fiber or whole grains. Avoid sugary cereals if you are choosing to top your yogurt off with cereal. Avoid white bread, even if you are getting 45 calories per slice. Nature's Own Double fiber bread has 50 calories per slice, 5 grams fiber, 1g sugar and 4grams protein!
I recommend that your snack is around 125-250 calories, depending on how many snacks you are eating between meals. If you are a routined person, who eats meals at the same time every day, I recommend around 200-250 calories for your snack in order to keep you satisfied between meals. If you rarely know when you will eat lunch or dinner, work out at lunch time or mid-morning/mid-afternoon, or go more than 5 hours between meals, I recommend having 1 x 125-150 snack every 2-3hours, so that you are snacking twice between meals. I always recommend a small protein or fiber snack (around 50-75 calories) around 15-30 min before a meal to prevent overeating, but having a healthy snack every few hours will keep your metabolism going and blood sugar stable.

*Before I give my snack options, always be sure that you are drinking plenty of water during the day. We tend to eat when we are thirsty so always have a big glass of water before, during and after meals. Carry two sport water bottles (around 20-24 ounces) of water with you at all times during the day.

Here are some of my snack ideas (mix and match to give you the calories you need to keep you satisfied between meals:

*1 Wasa cracker w/ 1/2-1 tbsp natural PB and 3-4 slices of banana
*1 Wasa cracker w/ 1 tbsp. whipped cream cheese w/ 4-5 almonds
*60-80 calorie low fat yogurt w/ 1/4 cup dry cereal/granola
*60-80 calorie low fat yogurt w/ sliced fruit (2-3 pieces of small fruit, sliced)
*100 calorie bag of popcorn w/ seasonings (cayenne pepper, pepper, chopped garlic, paremesean cheese, etc.)
*1/4 cup fat-free or reduced fat cottage cheese w/ sliced almonds, cinnamon and raisins
*1/4 cup fat-free or reduced fat cottage cheese w/ 1/4 cup canned fruit (rinse and drain fruit before using)
*1 sugar free/fat free chocolate pudding w/ 1/4 cup trail mix or granola
*1 slice high fiber bread (Nature's Own) w/ 1 tbsp PB and 1 tbsp low sugar jelly (open face sandwich)
*1 slice high fiber bread (Nature's Own) w/ 1-2 thin slices lean deli meat (or 2 thick slices of tofu) w/ 1 tbsp. hummus
*1 slice high fiber bread (Nature's Own) w/ 1 thin slice deli meat (or 2 thick slices of tofu) w/ 1 tbsp. hummus and 1 thin slice of deli mozarella or swiss cheese
*1 cup of your own trail mix (mix in container: puff cereal, granola, dark chocolate hershey kisses, nuts, raisins) w/ 1 glass skim/soy milk (around 8 ounces)
*1 string cheese w/ sliced apples or pears
*10-15 sliced veggies (medley of carrots, cucumbers, edemame, celery, tomatoes, onions, brocoli, etc.) w/ 1/4 cup salsa
*10-15 sliced veggies (medley of carrots, chickpeas, edemame cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, onions, brocoli, etc.) w/ 2 tbsp hummus
*1/4-1/3 cup oatmeal w/ 1 tbsp raisins, topped with 1/8 cup granola or dry cereal
*1/4-1/3 cup oatmeal w/ fresh fruit
*100 calorie sugar-free oatmeal (found this at Wal-mart)
*1/2 scoop whey protein powder w/ 8 ounces skim milk (mix in shaker)
*1 cup skim/soy milk w/ 1 ounce dark chocolate
*1/2 sport bar (be sure the bar is less than 220 calories and without a thick icy-coataing to avoid sugar alcohols or unhealthy calories) w/ 1/4 cup trail mix
*3 egg whites w/ 1 string cheese
*2-3 egg whites + 1 whole egg scrambled (cook in microwave for 45-90 sec. Spray bowl with spray butter or pam to prevent sticking) w/ 1 slice high fiber bread or 2 WASA crackers
*1 veggie burger w/ sliced veggies


I'm sure I will think of more snacks as I go on the rest of my day.
Here is a pic of my afternoon fruit snack which I LOVE after a hard morning of training...


A snack from Karel's lunch:



I'd love to hear your snack ideas!