Many of us are working longer, needing to make our income go further yet trying to keep ourselves as healthy as we can. That often means needing to make a choice between going to the gym, or preparing a meal. Although we may feel time pressed and income –stretched, the good news is that we don’t have to feel guilty if we are not making or consuming regular meals. A survey from the Hartman group found that mealtimes are no longer the backbone of a daily eating plan.
More than half of Americans eating occasions are snacks and 91% of us snack multiple times a day.. So if snacking is the new meal, why have we turned to the shelf rather than the plate?
WHAT ROLE DO SNACKS SERVE?
Snacks are important as form of fuel, as a way to optimize our eating or address health issues and also for enjoyment.
Snacks can provide an energy boost and help tide us over until the next eating occasion. Since snacks can help with energy, we may find ourselves less likely to skip a workout. Because snacks can also be in liquid form such as a smoothie- they can be an opportunity for hydration. Snacks don’t just alleviate hunger but they can also boost our concentration so we can be more productive during the day. The go-to food and beverage components to provide fuel are; water, whole grains, protein, fiber, fat, and probiotics as well as seeking out foods with less sugar.
For certain diseases, smaller more frequent eating occasions may be beneficial so snacks can be a great way to provide and distribute nutrients throughout the day.. Snacking can alleviate the stress of a busy day. A strategically timed snack can help us to prepare or repair from a workout. In addition for those watching weight, a snack can be portion controlled to make it easier to stay within a calorie cap. Snacks chosen to optimize eating may include: beverages or foods with caffeine, protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, a lower sugar content, minerals and phyto(plant) nutrients.
There are times when we want to eat for comfort, or reward , to satisfy a craving or for indulgence. We want great taste, flavors, interesting textures,, and excitement. Most of us would not sit down to a pouch for a meal, but the idea of squeezing is cool and fun in a snacking occasion. Who would have dreamed that kale is a popular snack chip? And for those who have not grown up with beans on the plate, a small sized hummus with carrots or pretzels, or roasted , flavored beans are increasing in popularity. We don’t have to sacrifice flavor and taste to optimize health.
THE APPEAL OF SNACKS
When we hear the word snack we think flexible, fun and easy.
We can fit in snacks whenever we want. Snacks are portable, shelf stable and suited to on the go lifestyles. Whereas a meal is typically composed of a protein of some kind, grain and vegetable- snack choices can be much more varied in texture, flavor, look and form. For instance, a bar could contain fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains in a convenient , portable form that we can eat on our feet-whereas a salad which could contain the same ingredients requires prepping or ordering out, a utensil and the need to sit and eat.
Snacks are an opportunity to try something new. Flavor profiles, texture and form as well as packaging make foods fun. Snacking can be a reward as well as comfort and also a source of pleasure. Eating a salad doesn’t seem fun, but having a smoothie with veggies or trying veggie chips helps us boost our produce intake in an enjoyable way.
Snacks do not require preparation and they do not have to be planned. If we felt guilty about feeling the need to choose between a workout and meal preparation, snacking can alleviate the guilt by providing nourishment within seconds. And the good news is that there are so many healthier options for snacking.
We can choose from
Nuts and seeds or spread made from nuts or seeds
Fruit in a fresh, dried, and freeze dried form
Vegetables such as baby carrots, kale, carrot or beet chips, pickles, roasted soybeans, broadbeans, lentils and chick peas
Bean based dips and chips
Yogurt based smoothies
Fruit and nut bars
Snack “kits” with cheese, fruit, nuts or meat, cheese, crackers
HOW DO YOUR SNACKS STACK UP?
Snacks can be a replacement for not a complement to meals, but in order to get the most out of your snacks do have a snacking checklist:
Do some of your snacks contain produce?
Do all of your snacks contain protein?
Do you have fluids with or as your snacks?
Do your snacking occasions make you feel satisfied?
Are you snacking throughout the day or uploading your eating?
Do you enjoy what you are snacking on?
Make your snacks work for you.