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2020 Health Challenge Month 12: Snack Smarter

December 09, 2020

Most of us resolved to be a healthier version of ourselves in 2020. But that can seem like an overwhelming goal, which is why we’ve been giving you a new challenge each month to tackle one-by-one. In this final month of 2020, we challenge you to snack smarter!

Whether you’ve been following along with our challenges all year long or are just hopping on for the last one, this one’s worth reading. After all, who among us couldn’t stand to improve our eating habits?

In a “normal” year, December is filled with all sorts of holiday occasions and gatherings. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will make this year’s holiday season look different, but food is still likely to play a big role in the festivities.

Jenny McWilliams, FNP
Jenny McWilliams, FNP

To help you avoid piling on the pounds in the last weeks of the year and feeling less than your best, Jenny McWilliams, primary care nurse practitioner with West Tennessee Medical Group, wants to share some tips for how to snack smarter. Read on to learn more.

8 Tips to Help You Snack Smarter
While we often think of snacking as innately unhealthy, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, for those who are trying to lose weight or achieve fitness goals, snacking is normally part of a healthy eating strategy.

But while a snack or two during the day can help you stay energized, it’s important to be strategic about what you’re eating. Try these tips:

Put down that drink. You’ve heard it before, but one way that many of us could snack smarter is to stop drinking our calories away! While that jolt of afternoon caffeine may be appealing, a less-sugary beverage will do your body some good. Have your coffee, but without added sweeteners or creamy mix-ins, or choose water, unsweetened tea, or low-fat milk instead.

Carefully read labels. What you think of as healthy may not actually be healthy. As a good example, granola bars are often considered a good snack, but they are often filled to the brim with sugar, fat and calories. To ensure that your “healthy” food item is actually healthy, do a careful review of the package label, looking both at the nutrition facts and at the ingredients. And remember—a “package” often contains multiple servings.

Try something with a crunch. How satisfying is it to sink your teeth into a food that gives off a crunching sound?! The good news is: In a lot of instances, those crunchy foods are also healthy. Snack smarter with an apple or pear, bell pepper slices, roasted chickpeas, plain popcorn, nuts, or whole-grain crackers.

Prepare your snacks ahead of time. When you feel like you’re starving, you’re going to reach for whatever’s handy. In most cases, less-healthy foods are packaged conveniently. That’s why you need to think ahead and make healthy options more convenient, too! Keep fresh fruits and veggies cut up and ready to go, put together baggies of popcorn, or portion out servings of crackers or nuts. 

Pack a punch with some nuts. We mentioned nuts as a crunchy option, but they offer so much more than that! Nuts are packed with heart-healthy fats, and they’re also known to help keep you fuller for longer. But the same thing that makes them healthy is also why you need to portion them out—there’s a lot of fat in them, so portion control is important.

Combine foods for extra energy. If you’re trying for a snack that’s going to keep you full and energized until it’s time for your next meal, put together more than one type of food. Instead of eating just a carb or just a protein, snack smarter by pairing together a healthy carb (like whole-grain bread) with lean protein and a small amount of healthy fat (like peanut butter). 

Snack before a big meal. This tip can come in handy next holiday season when big gatherings can be the norm again, but it’s also useful now. If your big holiday meal is mid-afternoon, don’t let yourself get ravenous. Instead, put together a small, well-balanced snack (as outlined above) to keep you going until it’s time to eat. Otherwise, you’re much more likely to overindulge unnecessarily.

Don’t deprive yourself. While these tips can help you snack smarter, never eating things you love isn’t likely and it really isn’t advised. Allow yourself to splurge occasionally on foods you enjoy, especially holiday favorites. Choose small portions and savor them, then move on.

Already resolving to be healthier in 2021? A checkup with your provider is a good first step. FIND A PROVIDER HERE.