While you may feel guilty when you indulge in a snack, you don't have to if you choose healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Snacks can be beneficial for your health and help keep you from overeating, especially if you choose snack foods that contain both protein and fiber.
Eating healthy snacks between meals can help keep you from getting overly hungry and pigging out at your next meal. For this strategy to work, choose snacks that contain 100 to 200 calories and try to space them evenly between meals. Snacks that contain a lot of water and fiber, including many fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups and whole grains, allow you to eat a larger volume of food while still sticking to your calories. Nuts and low-fat dairy help you stay full for longer since they contain protein.
Controlling Blood Sugar
Snacking can also help you keep your blood sugar levels under control, since splitting your daily calories into more regularly space intervals helps keep blood sugar levels from falling and then spiking. If you are diabetic, just make sure you keep the amount of carbs in each snack and meal at the levels recommended by your doctor and include a protein source along with your carbs. For best results, try eating every three hours and not eating within three hours of bedtime.
Increasing Nutrient Intake
If you are not fitting in your recommended 2.5 cups of vegetables, 1.5 cups of fruit and 25 grams of fiber per day, snacks can help you do this. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps you get your recommended vitamins and minerals for the day, and fiber keeps you from getting constipated and lowers your risk for high cholesterol and heart disease. Consider dipping fresh veggies in hummus, eating a fruit and low-fat yogurt parfait with a few nuts sprinkled on top or having a few handfuls of air-popped popcorn with a cheese stick.
Adding snacks to your diet won't help you lose weight if you just add them to what you are already eating. You need to eat smaller meals if you are going to eat snacks between meals. Don't eat snacks out of habit -- only snack when you are hungry. Plan ahead, prepacking snacks into the proper portions, so you have healthy snacks available to grab and go should you need them.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.