With busy lives many of us snack throughout the day and consume about a quarter of our calories from sugary beverages and snack foods. We choose to snack throughout the day rather than eating three regular, healthful meals.
For morning snacking consider the following tips:
Pick protein. Studies have shown that eating protein early in the day helps fill you up so you’re more likely to feel fuller longer. Choose dairy foods such as yogurt and milk-based drinks over fruit juices and drinks. Other protein-packed snack options are a handful of nuts, a hard-boiled egg or cheese stick.
Pick a better bar. If you’re fond of breakfast bars, choose one that is higher in fiber and lower in sugar and fat so that you’re not just fueling up on a candy bar in disguise. Check the nutrition label and select ones that do not have sugar (or its sweeter cousins such as syrup, honey and anything ending in “ose”) as the first ingredient.
Plan ahead. Instead of buying a pastry to go with your coffee, bake whole-grain scones and muffins and freeze them. Package these options individually so they’re ready to pack in your purse, backpack or briefcase.
Whether snacking out of necessity, for fun or as a planned part of how you eat every day check out www.myplate.gov to see how to fill your plate with fruits, veggies, grains, protein and dairy for good nutrition. Then count your snacks toward food group servings to get “Your Plate in Shape.”
Use snacks to fill in food groups you’re less likely to eat. Yogurt can substitute for milk. Fresh veggies may be more appealing as a snack than the cooked veggies at dinner. Whole-grain crackers (read the label and look for “whole”) can help you meet the recommendation to make half your grains whole.
Make a snack plan. Have healthful grab-and-go choices such as fruits, veggies, whole-grain crackers and peanut butter on hand. Think outside the box for variety. Snacks like hummus and whole wheat pita bread or veggies with low-fat dip are a nice change. Know where you can purchase healthier choices when you’re away from home and steer clear of packaged items loaded with sugar, fat and salt.
When an unplanned attack of the munchies is overpowering, have on hand air popped popcorn or make a quick and filling fruit smoothie by blending low fat milk and frozen fruit.
Spend your daily calorie budget wisely. Be aware of recommended portion sizes. If portions are large, share it with someone else or save some for later. If you have difficulty controlling the size of portions you eat, don’t eat from packages that contain multiple servings. Choose a whole piece of fruit or a single serving packaged snack to help you control portions.
Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.