Choosing the right snack is just as essential as choosing the right meal when you’re trying to maintain or lose weight. Snacking isn’t limited to those who are focused on their weight. Healthy snack ideas are especially important for anyone who has kids. Taking care of little ones can make life much more chaotic, and it’s important to have healthy snack ideas on hand, ready to grab on the go or eat at a moment’s notice.
Snacking isn’t a dirty word. You should be snacking, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Snacking on anything other than nutrient-dense foods, like greasy potato chips and other vending machine snacks, can sabotage all the good things that you’ve implemented on your weight loss journey thus far. That’s because “good” snacking on nutrient-dense foods can help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you sufficiently satiated between meals. It also ensures that you won’t overeat at your next meal because you’re starving.
How do I know what a “good” snack looks like?
In general, it’s important to try to choose healthy snacks that follow the 35/10/35 guidelines set forth by several organizations, including the American Heart Association.
This means that healthy snacks should contain less than 35 percent fat, less than 10 percent saturated fat, and less than 35 percent sugar per 100 calories. There’s a great tool on the Healthier Generation website that, though aimed at schoolchildren, is perfect for any age. The calculator lets you enter your snack information, and it will tell you whether it’s a healthy choice.
First, you select whether your food is a snack, side, entree, or beverage. Let’s use greek yogurt as an example. Choose A, for snack. On the next page, choose C for dairy. The next step offers two options, and since we have greek yogurt, we select Option B for “Other.” Finally, enter the specifics of your yogurt product.
In that particular example, there was much more information needed to determine whether the product was compliant than, say, fresh fruit or vegetables. Don’t be deterred!
Dr. Melina’s Top Picks for Healthy Snacks
I try to include a little protein in most of my snacks. Adding protein will keep you feeling fuller for longer and help keep blood sugar stable. This may help you stay focused at work, especially during that afternoon slump period. Nuts are one of the most convenient sources of protein.
Assuming that you have a fridge and a microwave at your workplace, here are some of my favorite healthy snack ideas. I’ve also tried to include a few options that don’t require any refrigeration or preparation.
Feel free to mix and match options.
You can also combine two or three of these options to eat as an entire meal instead of going out for fast food, as they are a great source of nutrients.
1. Baby carrots or snap peas + hummus or low-fat ranch dressing
2. Non-fat yogurt (plain and low sugar) + two tablespoons chopped nuts or ¼ to ½ cup high-fiber cereal (aim for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving)
3. Half or whole peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-grain bread
4. One string cheese + one apple
5. A cereal bar (should contain 3 grams of fiber, if possible) + ½ cup fat-free cottage cheese
6. 94 percent fat-free microwave or air-popped popcorn (many people forget or don’t know that popcorn is actually a whole grain!)
7. A small can of tuna packed in water (3 oz) + ½ whole-wheat pita bread + Dijon mustard
8. One serving whole-grain cereal + ½ cup of fat-free milk (cereal doesn’t just have to be for breakfast; it can be a healthy whole grain snack, too)
9. A cup of minestrone soup; garbanzo beans provide fiber and protein
10. A protein bar. Aim for one that contains:
- At least 10 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving
- No more than 15 grams of sugar or 5 grams of fat
Don’t let your schedule be an excuse
All of these snacks are not only wonderfully healthy, but they’re aimed at today’s busy lifestyle. With some very small preparation the night before, you can turn up to work with a day’s worth of healthy snacks. If you’re able, buy certain snacks in bulk – like yogurt, cottage cheese, popcorn, or protein bars – and keep them at work, so you’ll never forget to bring them with you.
Treat your snack break like a real break, and get up and move. If you can take a walk for 10-15 minutes, even better. Every opportunity to move your body during the day is another opportunity to boost your heart health. Every little bit adds up, so walking for 10 minutes three times a day is far better than doing nothing.