We have become a nation of snackers. At the grocery store, we are bombarded with quick, convenient, “grab and go” options including granola bars, ready-to-drink smoothies, cheese and crackers, trail mix, and dried fruit but this wasn’t always the case. If we look back throughout history, we will see that snacking trends have changed.
According to the National Health and Nutrition examination Survey (NHANES) data, between 1977-1978 and 2007-2008, the percentage of adults who snacked increased from 59% to 90%. The question has arisen as to whether or not this is beneficial for our health. There is some evidence which concludes that snacking may contribute to undesirable weight gain or an increase in nutrient-poor food choices, as noted in the May 2016 issue of Advances in Nutrition. However, we have also learned that by paying attention to portion size and selecting more nutrient-dense foods, snacking can have a positive impact on overall health, as stated February 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Mixed nuts/trail mix and freeze-dried fruit
- Nut butter on celery or apples topped with granola
- Greek yogurt, fruit and nuts
- Hummus and veggies
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Peanut butter, banana and chia sandwich
- Protein bars
with minimal ingredients
- Edamame with a little goat cheese on whole-grain crackers
Ultimately, when we pay attention to our choices and our portions, snacking can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Being in-tune with our bodies allows us to have our internal clocks remind us of an accurate picture of hunger and fullness. When we eat more balanced meals and snacks, we often feel better and have a stronger desire to take better care of ourselves.
So, what is considered to be a balanced snack? Whether we are on the go, at work, or at home, there are a variety of well-balanced snacks that can fit right in.
Snacks that combine protein, carbohydrate and fat tend to keep us satisfied longer and help to meet our nutritional needs. If you are on the go or at work, pack a little cooler or bring a stash with you.
Plan ahead, look for variety and pay attention to how you feel. When you do this, snacking can be a beneficial and enjoyable part of your day.
—Abby Olson, RDN, LD