NUTRITION: Up your snack game with mini-meals
What drives you to reach for a snack? It might be to satisfy a sweet or salty craving, boredom, to relieve hunger, availability of food, or even to help cope with emotions. Why you want a snack can heavily influence what you choose to snack on.
Well-balanced, nutrient-dense snacks help stabilize energy, reduce feelings of fatigue, and improve mood. Here’s how to optimize these fueling opportunities with great choices, so you can reap the benefits of snacks.
Your eating habits between standard meal times may be directly influenced by how you perceive these informal eating occasions. Recent research has identified that the word snack is associated with overeating in terms of the amount of food, sweets, and calories. By mentally reframing snacks as mini-meals, you might find it more natural for you to reach for better fueling options.
Balancing your mini-meals
A mini-meal should have four key components: carbs, protein, fat, and produce. The main goal: combine fiber with food that will keep you satiated and your energy stable.
- Quality carbohydrates are critical for providing energy to your body and brain. Opt for oats, granola, air-popped popcorn, wheat crackers, or minimally processed energy bars.
- Lean proteins build muscle tissue, support your immune system, and help you feel satiated. Grab tuna, hard-boiled eggs, jerky, Greek yogurt, beans and nuts, or cottage cheese.
- Healthy fats stabilize energy, create the feeling of fullness, support the inflammatory process, and boost brain health. Choose nuts, seeds, avocado, or nut butter.
- Colorful fruits and veggies provide nutrients that help repair the body and prevent illness. Try celery, carrots, broccoli, snap peas, whole fruit, berries, or herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, and garlic.
How you fuel throughout the day is influenced by a number of factors. So it’s no surprise that your mini-meals may vary. Take a moment to think through what affects your habits.
- Preferences: Nutritious mini-meals can still include foods that are enjoyable to you.
- Schedule: Set aside time during the day to prep and eat your mini-meal.
- Ability: Whether you’re a home chef or a novice in the kitchen, stick to what you’re comfortable with.
- Family: Make the same snack for everyone in your family and pack for school, work, or home.
- Exercise: Think about how you need to plan your mini-meals around exercise to ensure you have enough energy to get through your workouts and nutrients to recover.