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5 Tips for Smart Snacking

Back to school and the holidays around the corner means a tougher time picking healthy snacks. Don’t despair. Here are just a few tips to keep in mind while snacking.

Tip #1 The most basic and most important of all food-related tips: Do not eat if you’re not hungry. Sadly, I must confess to being guilty as charged on this count. It makes a lot of sense to eat only when we are hungry. But, we do it all the time, right? In case you needed some research to back this theory up, French researchers have provided evidence for us:French researchers found that when people who weren’t hungry ate a snack a few hours after lunch, they did not eat fewer calories at dinner, regardless of whether the snack was high in carbohydrates or fat.

Tip #2 Think protein, not carbs. So, if we assume that we are actually hungry when we are looking for a snack (see Tip #1), then what kind of snack would actually satisfy our hunger? I have yet another confession: My question when I’m looking for a snack usually has to do with what tastes good rather than what will fill my hunger. Hmmm… If we are looking to satiate our appetite, then a protein snack is smarter than one loaded with carbohydrates. Another group of French researchers found that high-protein snacks help people feel full longer and eat less at their next meal. Study participants ate 200 calories of protein or carbs or nothing at all. Those who ate high-carbohydrate snacks were hungry again just as quickly as those who ate no snacks. It looks like the lesson from that study is that we’re better off not snacking than grabbing a high-carb treat.

Tip #3 Beware of the salt. A study published in an American Heart Association journal found that kids who eat salty snacks get thirstier (obviously), but they’re also more likely to drink calorie- and sugar-laden sodas to tame their thirst. The biggest problem with getting thirsty when you’re snacking is not that so many people are going to be looking for water after they eat their salty snack of choice. The problem is that chances are the salty snack is not homemade potato chips or seasoned edamame. The problems is that the salty snack is something processed and packaged and the drink of choice is usually a soda, also loaded with sugar and sodium.

Tip #4 You can’t go wrong with dark chocolate and nuts. Purdue University researchers found that snackers who ate peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, chestnuts, or chocolate were significantly less hungry than those who ate rice cakes or pickles. Well, that sounds like no competition to me. Would I prefer dark chocolate or almonds to rice cakes or pickles? I’m not even going to answer. I like Tip #4!

Tip #5 Learn from the Soldiers. Fitz of Fitzness.com reminds us all to learn a snacking lesson from our soldiers in training. At boot camp soldiers love to receive care packages from their loved ones. However, guidelines for families advise, “Your Soldiers are working hard to cut fat and gain muscle – so even if they ask for large bags of candy – it’s not what they need.” “Your packages and letters are a huge part of the morale in the military and your Soldiers look forward to getting them. Honestly with our lifestyle these don’t have to be elaborate. A picture of our favorite place, a letter that smells like home or a small treat can have huge impact on the next day’s training. They miss you – not the candy.”There are so many other ways to snack smart. These tips should get us thinking differently about snacking. And, if you ask me, that’s half the battle!

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