I was walking through the grocery store the other day, marveling once again at the tremendous amount of junk food being pawned off as “real food.” It seemed to me that many, many of the foods touted themselves as “great for snacking.”
Chips, crackers, sugary granola bars, cookies, preboxed lunch meat with crackers, caramel dip, microwave “butter-flavored” popcorn, huge premade muffins, sugar-sweetened applesauce or fruit cups all purport to be great for snacking.
When we are trying to win the weight loss war, we often hear that snacking can help us stay full between meals and may help us feel less deprived. Snacks can be a valuable tool , provided we use them wisely and are conscious of their impact on our overall caloric intake. An article by registered dietitian James Kennedy, states that “. . .any metabolic advantage from snacking or eating more frequent meals disappears if the total calorie intake goes up.”
There are two things I wanted to open up for discussion today. One, there is a definite difference between a healthy snack and a less healthy snack, and two, to remind everyone (myself included) to take into account the caloric content of the snacks you choose.
Differences in Healthy Versus Unhealthy Snacks
My list of junky snacks I saw in the grocery store the other day speaks for itself. Some food manufacturers will brand almost any easy-to-eat food as a snack, and we as consumers willingly go along. When I was overweight I really did consider tortilla chips with cheese smothered on top of them a reasonable snack choice. I also considered pop-tarts, toaster strudel, biscuits with jelly, chips, and handfuls of candy a decent snack. Those unhealthy snacks I was eating not only added to my waistline but also took away from my health. The high sodium, calories, and sugar in those snacks was undoubtedly bad for my cholesterol, blood sugar, and even my heart’s health. Fortunately I didn’t eat those snacks for decades and eventually learned to make healthier snack choices.
Healthy snacks are those that not only help you stay satiated between meals, but those that contribute positively to your overall health. Natural cereals, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, hummus, whole-wheat crackers or breads, nut butters, and low-fat cheeses are just a few examples of healthy snacks. When you are choosing snacks, ask yourself if you really need a snack right then and whether the snack you are getting ready to have is the best choice for you nutritionally.
Watch The Calories
The benefits of snacking are relatively well-documented, but there is a caveat to adding even healthy snacks to our diet. Whether you are maintaining your weight or trying to lose weight, those snack calories still count for your daily intake.
Understanding and accounting for those calories can go a long way towards your success. I’ve seen snacking calories become a pitfall for many, many people I’ve spoken with about weight loss throughout the years. One lady I met with said that she was eating a healthy, low-calorie breakfast, lunch, and dinner but was unable to lose much weight. I asked her about snacks. She said, “I eat healthy snacks like almonds, yogurt, and an occasional handful of dark chocolate chips.” We added up her snack calories for an average day and it was well in excess of 500 calories. She had no idea that almonds were so high in calories, and that just 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips had about 70 calories. Those add up fast.
I’d encourage you to snack wisely if you choose to snack, and if you find yourself sitting on that not-so-fun weight loss plateau for awhile, make sure to look at the calories you are eating at and between meals.
How do you use snacks wisely? Have you ever had to adjust your snacking to achieve your goals? Diane