Snacks, yes snacks have a place in the nutritional hierarchy. They come with several caveats however and please hear me out.
1. A “snack” is a light meal and should be considered just that. 200 – 300 calories is the maximum that you should be eating in a light meal. If most of us are taking in approximately 1800 - 2400 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight, 600 calories in 2 “snacks” equals approximately ¼ to 1/3 of the calories needed for a whole day. This type of eating would leave our 1800 calorie person only 1200 calories to consume in 3 meals (that’s 400 calories per meal).
2. A “snack” should be all about keeping you from feeling hungry and maintaining energy levels until your next meal (no jitters, light-headedness, spikes and drops in blood sugar, etc.). Thus, a snack should include protein, carb, and fat and ALL from wholesome, real, food. This pretty much eliminates soda as a snack.
3. What makes a good snack? You are trying to maintain that feeling of satiety (not hungry, not tired) that comes when you eat well and at the right times for your system. By combining protein, fat, and carbs, at the same time, you should feel content. This is what makes a good snack.
4. What IS a good snack? There are home-made versions and quick, store-bought versions and I’ll share just a couple.
- ½ apple or 2 pieces of celery with 1 – 2 TBSP nut or seed butter
- A handful of sunflower seeds with a sprinkling of raisins or dried cherries
- 1 packet String Cheese with 12 oz. of coconut water
- KIND Brand Nuts and Spices Bars
- LARABAR Alt Fruit and Nut Bars
Some nutritionists do not advocate snacking at all. While I eat snacks I am also much more diligent these days about eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Snacks become a way to fill in the low energy or hunger gaps, at certain times of the day, or to replace energy used in working out.
Be smart about snacking and it can serve you well.
Stephanie Atwood, M.A. is a Best Selling Author, Bay Area Women's Fitness Writer, certified coach, trainer, and sports nutrition consultant.
Coach Stephanie founded Go WOW Team in 2006. This award winning, all women's group was voted Best Bay Area Run Club by ABC7 on their A-List. Go WOW Team is also the official training program for the Oakland Run Fest and See Jane Run Half Marathon.