Many of us reach for a snack during the mid-afternoon workday slump, or after dinner while we’re watching TV. In fact, a recent study showed that 94% of American’s snack at least one time per day, with half of all adults grabbing a snack two or three times each day. That’s a lot of snacking!

Snacking is an important part of a balanced diet…that is if you do it correctly. Read on to find out how to snack smarter, and check out my favorite healthy and portable energy-boosting snacks.

Snack Smarter

Snacking during the day can help to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable if you do it properly. Unfortunately, many people snack on highly processed and packaged foods that are low in nutrients and high in sugar and salt. While that sugar may give you a temporary energy boost, very quickly you’ll bottom out and feel fatigued and hungry again.

Instead, use snack times as a way to fit in high-nutrient foods. The difference between a snack that satisfies and one that leaves you hungry an hour later? Protein. The best snack is one that provides a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates provide energy, while protein and fat help slow digestion, stabilize blood sugar levels, and make that energy long-lasting. But that’s not all–science shows that getting adequate protein helps keep cravings at bay while keeping you satisfied longer. Whether it’s fueling up before hitting the gym or taking a midday snack break, adding balanced, nutrient-rich snacks to your daily diet can help your diet and health goals.

How To Avoid Mindless Munching

Another problem with frequent snacks: mindlessly munching. Often people snack to satisfy a craving or sooth an emotion, not because they are hungry. It’s one thing to eat a planned snack in between meals; it’s another to mindlessly eat your way through an entire bag of chips or tub of hummus. Avoid this by making it a rule never to eat out of a bag or box, always putting the snack on a plate or in a bowl. Take your snack out of the kitchen, and eat it mindfully.

The Best Time to Snack

Snacks serve as an important bridge between meals and can help prevent overeating at mealtime. I always advise my clients never to wait to eat until they are ravenous. Otherwise, it is way too hard to control food choices, and you will be more apt to eat more than you need. In general, don’t go more than four to six hours in between meals. If it has been more than six hours between meals, you’ll want to think about eating a snack.

Healthy and Portable Energy-Boosting Snacks

The following snacks are well-balanced and contain carbohydrate, protein, and healthy fat. They are simple to prepare and easy to take with you on the go.

Smoked Paprika Popcorn + 2 tablespoons of nuts
– 2 no-bake energy bites: try Carrot Cake Energy Bites, Purple Sweet Potato Power Bites or Tropical Mangle Coconut Energy Balls
– High protein fruit smoothie: try this Berry Almond Cocoa Smoothie or these Super Greek Yogurt Smoothies
– Ants on a log: 2 celery sticks filled with 1 tablespoon nut butter and 2 tablespoons raisins
– Banana Date Nut Butter Roll-ups
– 2 hard boiled eggs + a piece of fruit
– 1 cup of edamame in the shell + ⅛ teaspoon sea salt, for sprinkle
– Homemade Fruit & Nut Bars
– Trail mix: ¼ cup dried fruit + 2 tablespoons nuts + 1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips
– Cherry Almond Chia Coconut Bar
– 2 medjool dates stuffed with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
– Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
– ½ cup roasted edamame + ¼ cup dried cherries
– 10 whole grain crackers + 1 cheese stick
– 6oz plain Greek yogurt + ½ cup blueberries + 2 tablespoons slivered almonds

Share your energy-boosting tips with us in the comments section.

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