A Well-Balanced Approach to Snacking: Stay Full Longer
When you think of a perfect snack, what comes to mind? Taste? How much fat it has? Is it healthy, or is it simply empty calories?
A perfect snack is well-balanced, containing four essential elements that, when combined, keep you feeling full longer. They are: healthy fats, protein, fiber, and natural sugars.
A perfect snack is also healthy and chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients your body needs.
It’s got to taste good too, because eating something that tastes bad just for the sake of your health is no fun.
Your body needs certain fats to function. These good fats keep your brain healthy, lower your cholesterol, help you absorb essential vitamins, and keep your heart healthy.
The good fats:
- Polyunsaturated Fats come from nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and fatty fish.
- Monounsaturated Fats come from olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids come from walnuts and soy, but the biggest source is fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines.
The bad fats:
- Saturated fats are found in foods like red meat and some dairy (think butter and cream). Eat these fats in moderation.
- Trans fats are found in junk food, fried foods, and margarine. Limit these fats.
Protein is an important building block for your body. It’s in every cell and you need a lot of it to function.
It gives you long-lasting, sustainable energy while keeping you feeling full longer.
To avoid saturated fats, stick with lean proteins.
Good sources of lean protein:
- Fish, chicken, turkey, legumes (beans and lentils), cheese, eggs, and nuts.
Protein to eat in moderation:
- Beef, pork, lamb, and processed meats (like lunch meat and hot dogs).
Fiber’s another element that helps keep you full longer, and it’s found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
There are two kinds of fibers:
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows the absorption of sugar into the blood stream. It’s found in oatmeal, apricots, grapefruit, oranges, mangos, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, asparagus, and flaxseeds.
- Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, meaning your body can’t break it down. It helps keep your digestive system regular by moving things through your intestines, and it cleans them by acting like a brush as it moves through. It’s found in cabbage, onions, bell peppers, lettuce, corn, whole grains, popcorn, dates, prunes, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, kale, spinach, apples, plums, raspberries, and strawberries.
Natural sugars, like honey and sugar in fruit, add taste while also adding important nutrients. Natural sugars also stabilize your blood sugar, which helps you feel full for longer.
Refined sugars, such as sugar cane, only add empty calories, which are then converted into fat for storage in your body. You’ll also feel hungry again soon after you eat refined sugar.
Good Sources of Natural Sugars:
- Fruits with fiber like apples, oranges, pink grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, pears, bananas, blueberries, and peaches.
Refined Sugars to Avoid:
- Candy, doughnuts, cookies, ice cream, cakes, and pies.
- Processed foods with added sugars like pasta sauce, fruit juice, sports drinks, salad dressing, and bread.
Important Extras: Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins perform very important functions, from building bones to supporting your immune system. Your body needs vitamins and minerals because it can’t make them on its own.
Including a fruit and/or vegetable in every snack insures that you’ll be getting the essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your body needs.
Every day your body is hit with free radicals that cause harm to your cells. These free radicals come in the form of pollution, tobacco, alcohol, chemicals, ultra-violate rays, and other toxins. Antioxidants help reduce free radicals.
Fruits and vegetables with a deep, rich color have high concentrations of antioxidants like blueberries, raspberries, pomegranate, and blackberries.
Don’t Forget About Taste
Taste is a very important part of creating the perfect snack. If it doesn’t taste good, you won’t want to eat it.
If you buy snacks that you don’t like just because they’re good for you, there’s a good chance you won’t eat them before they go bad. You’ll end up throwing them away while also wasting your money.
If you hate raisins, choose dried cranberries instead. Choose dried fruit with no sugar or low sugar added. You’ll still get the benefits of a dried fruit with natural sugar, vitamins, and minerals.
Put it All Together
To get the most out of your snacks, choose foods that have a combination of two or more of the four essentials listed above. For example, an apple has both fiber and natural sugar.
Apples and cheese make a perfect snack because together, they have fiber, natural sugar, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Other perfect snack combinations:
- Apples + Peanut Butter = fiber, natural sugars, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals
- Avocado + Whole Grain Toast = fiber, healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals
- Dark Chocolate + Dried Cranberries + Almonds = healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and natural sugars
- Greek Yogurt + Blueberries + Pecans = healthy fat, protein, fiber, natural sugar, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Celery + Peanut Butter + Raisins = fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, and natural sugar
- Hummus + Carrot Sticks + Whole Grain Crackers = protein, healthy fats, fiber, natural sugar, vitamins, and minerals
See how many perfect snack combinations you can come up with. The combinations are endless!