Snacking sometimes has a negative connotation as it’s typically associated with potato chips, junk foods, and desserts—mostly unhealthy foods. But snacking can also include healthy, nutritious foods with great health benefits. It can be difficult to choose healthy snacks, especially during the summer when all you want to do after a hot day outside is to have a bowl of ice cream…but there are many healthy snack options you can substitute that contain beneficial nutrients to fuel your body.
What is Snacking?
Snacking is generally defined as anytime you eat foods between main meals. This could be a snack between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and dinner, between dinner and bedtime, or perhaps even a midnight snack. A recent study found that about a quarter of Americans snacked multiple times per day, one-third snacked at least once daily, and 40% of people claimed to occasionally replace meals by snacking.
Why do people snack? Hunger isn’t the only reason. People snack out of boredom or habit, to ease stress, and for social reasons, among many others. Just think about it, when you go to the movies, is it second nature to grab some popcorn to munch on while watching? Or at social events or parties, do you nibble on the chips or crackers while chatting up other guests, without consciously thinking about what you’re eating? Being more mindful of what you’re eating and choosing healthy snacks can make a huge difference in your physical well-being and toward your fitness goals.
Is Snacking Bad for You?
While snacking can have its disadvantages, it can also have helpful benefits—depending on the frequency and types of snack foods you eat, of course. Snacking can keep your body fueled between meals, giving you a boost of energy if your blood glucose levels get low before your next meal. Healthy snacks can also add extra nutrients to your diet and help curb your appetite so you’re not as ravenous for your next meal.
If you’re not paying attention to calorie intake, though, snacking can lead to weight gain if you consume too many calories without burning enough through physical activity. Plus, if you’re reaching for cookies, chips, pretzels, or candy, these processed foods can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, especially when eaten by individuals who are overweight.
If you love snacking, familiarize yourself with some nutrient-dense, healthy snacks to keep on hand for when cravings strike.
Healthy Summer Snacks
The warmer, summer months may cause you to crave smaller, lighter meals, but that may also mean you’re eating more frequently throughout the day. The best healthy snacks contain complex carbs, healthy fats, and fiber, so keep that in mind when you’re reaching for your next summer snack. Below are some ideas to get you started but can be customized to your specific preferences.
- Carrot sticks and apple slices with a tablespoon of almond, peanut, or sunflower seed butter
- Canned or packaged tuna or salmon with whole-grain crackers
- Ants on a log (1 tbsp peanut butter spread onto multiple celery sticks, topped with raisins)
- Sliced zucchini, radishes, cucumber, and sweet bell peppers with 2 tablespoons of hummus
- No-bake energy bites made with old-fashioned oats, coconut, peanut butter, etc., plus flaxseed and chia seeds for added nutrient value
- A hard-boiled egg (plain, topped with everything bagel seasoning, and/or avocado)
- Frozen Greek yogurt bark with cherries and coconut, dark chocolate and pistachios, or your own unique combination of toppings
Plan your snacks ahead by choosing a few new ideas to try for the week and preparing them in advance. That way, your healthy snacks are within reach and you’re less likely to make poor snacking choices. Also, pay attention to serving sizes. It’s difficult to overeat with fruits and vegetables, but with other snack foods like hummus, peanut butter, or yogurt, it can be easy to overindulge and throw off your fitness goals. Remember, it’s ok to eat fats, just try to make them healthy fats instead of over processed, empty calories.
When you’re on-the-go during summer, whether it’s heading out on a family road trip, going camping, spending all day at an amusement park, or spending a day at the lake, it’s helpful to have healthy snacks that travel well (meaning they can withstand being in a bag or backpack and don’t make too much of a mess).
- Beef or turkey jerky (serving size is typically around 1 ounce)
- ¼ to ½ cup of seeds and nuts (sunflower seeds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds, pistachios)
- ¼ to ½ cup of unsweetened dehydrated fruits like apple, pineapple, mango, banana, or dried figs
- Adult “lunchable” with jerky or beef sticks, cheese cubes, roasted chickpeas, nuts, and whole-grain crackers
- String cheese and 1 cup of grapes
- Air-popped popcorn with a spritz of vinegar, topped with sea salt
Depending on your preferences, you can always switch things up and opt for somewhat “messier” snacks with dips like peanut butter, hummus, etc. as mentioned in the previous section. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new or try to recreate a healthier version of your favorite road trip junk food snack.
Planning is Key for Healthy Snacking
As with working out, it’s best to have a plan when approaching your snacking habit. You likely plan for what types of exercise you’ll do at the gym each visit, so why not take the same approach in planning ahead for snack times? Having healthy snacks on hand will encourage you to make the right choices and avoid snacks that could derail your results at the gym.
If you find yourself craving unhealthy snacks while you’re away from home, plan ahead by bringing a snack box to work or on errands to avoid succumbing to fast food or convenience store impulses.
You should also be eating a healthy diet with plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy to help contribute toward your fitness goals. Keeping your refrigerator and pantry stocked with nutritious foods certainly helps you avoid the unhealthier choices at meal and snack times. If you have a weakness for sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices, or certain energy drinks, plan ahead for those occasions in which your cravings are the strongest by carrying a water bottle to stay hydrated. You can even perk up your water with sliced, fresh fruit like lemons, limes, watermelon, or grapes.
If you need more guidance on what to eat, along with a customized meal and exercise plan, speak to a Personal Trainer at EōS or take advantage of the Betr Health partnership, a wellness solution with nutritional guidance, personalized coaching and 24/7 support. New EōS members also receive a Complimentary Welcome Workout to help you get started on your fitness goals.