Snack Attack

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Have your eating patterns changed during the past few months? If so, it isn’t surprising. Eating habits, meal times, and grocery shopping look and feel different now for many of us. Whether we are trying to keep hungry kids fed while juggling work and home-schooling or just quietly working at home alone, it is easy to eat more food than we normally would. In a recent survey, 48 percent of respondents say they snack more often now that they are spending more time at home.

Being only a few steps away from your pantry and fridge means lots of food options are easily accessible. Plus, there are triggers in the home that remind us about food. If you frequently eat in front of the television, the TV itself can be a trigger. If there are candy bowls or bags of chips on the counter, temptation can be almost impossible to resist. And if you are feeling more than just a little stressed, well, emotional eating is real.

Before you pick up a snack, ask yourself if you are really hungry. Since we sometimes eat out of boredom, stress, frustration, or habit, it’s important to assess how we are feeling before we eat. If you truly are hungry, a healthy snack can provide several benefits. Snacks help us bridge the time between meals so that we don’t approach the next meal with ravenous hunger. Snacks also serve as an essential component of our diet when they help maintain the proper amount of nutrients our body needs. If you aren’t getting enough vegetables at meal time, for example, snack time can be an opportunity to fit more of them into your diet.

Unfortunately, snacks are often a source of extra calories – usually from the foods we eat too much of already. Let’s think about the calories in a granola bar or other highly processed snack food. For the same number of calories in half of a granola bar (about 100 calories), you could eat 15 large strawberries or 2 cups of carrots or a whole apple – each of which would keep you feeling fuller for a longer period of time than half of that granola bar. Not only are fruits and vegetables low in calories, they supply a ton of nutrients. To minimize trips to the market, try to keep longer-lasting produce on hand: oranges, pineapple, apples, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, radishes, and frozen fruits and vegetables.

For busy parents, snacks need to be healthy, portable, and easy to eat. String cheese, popcorn, whole grain crackers, and fresh fruits and vegetables that are pre-cut and portioned into bags or containers make great on-the-go snacks. A handful of nuts or seeds, Greek yogurt, roasted chickpeas, hummus, or nut butters supply long-lasting energy. Pairing vegetables with healthy dips will probably encourage your kids, and you, to eat them more often. Hummus, guacamole, nut butters, and plain Greek yogurt flavored with herbs and spices are delicious complements to raw vegetables. If you want to dodge junk food, make it easy on yourself by keeping them out of sight. Place fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter and keep pre-cut veggies front and center in the refrigerator for healthy grab-and-go snacks.

If you would like to read more on this topic, visit Eat Smart Move More Weigh Less. Catherine Hill, RD, LDN posted an excellent article titled “How to Snack Smart While Working from Home” which discusses the hunger scale, healthy snack combinations, controlling snack attacks, and other tips for staying on track through this unique time.