An estimated 95 percent of U.S. adults reported consuming a snack on any given day, according to pre-pandemic survey data from the Department of Agriculture. And snacks contributed more than a fifth of the calories that adults eat. So if healthy eating is your goal, minding those snacks is essential. Here’s advice from experts on how to make good choices and dodge common traps.
• Remember the basics – Look for snacks that are lower in sugar and salt. Tasty options include fruits and vegetables, nuts and low-fat yogurt. All can help tide you over until the next meal.
• Find snacks that satisfy – Dietitians recommend trying to pair a complex carbohydrate with a lean protein and healthy fat – and don’t forget the fiber. Consider whole-grain toast with peanut or almond butter; whole-grain crackers with canned tuna or salmon; or cherry tomatoes with hummus.
• Read those labels – As food companies work to provide healthier snacks, consumers need to look beyond terms like “healthy” or “natural” on the label. That “healthy” nutrition bar might have more calories than a candy bar. Also check for added sugars and high levels of sodium.
• Watch the beverages – Drinks count as you keep track of between-meal calories. Many people are aware of the calories in soda but might overlook what’s in juice or their coffee drink. Consider options such as plain or sparkling water, unsweetened tea or coffee, or a small glass of 100 percent fruit juice.
• Beware the break room – A 2019 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics indicated that people commonly consumed food provided by vending machines, company cafeterias and friendly employers or colleagues – and that added an average of 1,300 calories to workers’ weekly totals. So if you work outside the home, consider taking your own healthy snacks with you.
• Set yourself up to succeed – If you have a weakness for cookies, don’t buy them. If you tend to crave sugary snacks at work, don’t keep a jar of candy at your desk. Snacking can mean different things to different people, so you’ll need to adapt to what works for you. The goal, experts say, is to snack consciously, instead of eating mindlessly.