Snacking without Sacrifice:
4 Key Components to Balanced Snacking
Americans are moving away from larger, scheduled mealtimes and relying more on smaller bites and snacks throughout the day to fortify their bodies and keep their energy levels up. “Healthy snacking” is an increasingly popular concept in the 21st century, as people are looking to eat smaller amounts more frequently. Like so many trends in nutrition, this new meal pattern can be either extremely beneficial or extremely detrimental, depending almost entirely on your snack selection.
Traditional “snacks,” such as chips and cookies can cause dramatic swings in your blood sugar levels, which only serve to increase your fatigue and exacerbate your hunger. On the other hand, well-rounded, nutrient-dense snacks eaten throughout the day promote focus, cognition, an elevated mood, and a positive attitude. These “healthy snacks” not only curb hunger, but they also help to stay alert and sustain steady energy levels throughout the day.
So, what are the four key components of a healthy snack?
Protein is a critical building block of muscles and hormones that also stimulates metabolism. As an added bonus, protein keeps blood sugar levels even, helping to maintain steady energy and focus throughout the day.
Healthy fats, like those found in avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds moderate our digestion, stabilize blood sugar, and keep our brain focused on the task at hand. Good fats also assist in absorbing critical nutrients like vitamins A, D, and E, which are essential for repairing cell damage and maintaining a robust immune system.
Healthy carbs do exist (despite what you may have heard during the no-carb craze). Low-glycemic carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, yams, beans, oatmeal or quinoa, release slowly into the bloodstream and provide a steady release of energy. Good carbs are also loaded with B vitamins, which are essential for the body’s energy production!
Fiber is the “unsung hero” of nutrition. Fiber activates specific receptors in our brain that indicate we’ve had enough to eat, preventing overindulgence. Fiber also absorbs cholesterol, reducing overall blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It slows digestion, reducing the release of blood sugar and keeping energy levels steady. What’s more, fiber promotes good digestion and a healthy overall gut!
You don’t necessarily need each one of these components in every snack to make it “healthy,” but finding a balance by including two or three will help keep your snacking purposeful and packed with nutrition.
Here are some balanced snack ideas to get you started:
- Avocado on whole-grain bread (good fats, good carbs, fiber)
- Smoked salmon lettuce wraps with plant-based mayonnaise (protein, good fats, good carbs)
- Peanut butter and apple slices (protein, good fats, good carbs, fiber)
- Walnuts with banana slices (protein, good fats, good carbs, fiber)
- Bean dip with whole-grain tortillas (protein, good carbs, fiber)
- Turkey or salmon jerky (protein, good fats)
- Sliced turkey with baby carrots (protein, good carbs, fiber)
Want to know more about the Vitality Triangle behind every Zing bar? Take a look.