Tips for Choosing Healthier Snack Options

In my coaching, I get TONS of questions about snacks. How often to eat them, what to eat, and how to make them healthy AND delicious. Are there even any healthy snacks that don't feel punitive? I understand that feeling - even if you love vegetables, they can get pretty monotonous and having to reach for a carrot stick when all you want is a cookie can harness the willpower of a superhero!

I am all about keeping it simple. BUT, rather than list some healthy snacks (which feels a bit lackluster), I wanted to talk about HOW to snack. Snacking changes so much person to person. But there is one commonality: Whether you are looking to lose weight, gain some energy, break up a monotonous routine or troubleshoot unhealthy habits, snacks will be a KEY player in healthy-ing up your lifestyle! For realz.

So, what kind of snacks and snacking style is right for you? Below I'll describe 3 common types of people. Choose from the styles below if any resonate with you. For each type, I'll recommend snack types and timing and from there you can check out some of the recipes and recommendations I have for you below that!

1) The Snacker: 

The Snacker is someone who floats through the day snacking on whatever they can find when they get hungry. Snackers love to have something they can easily eat and chew on as they go through their daily routine.

  • The downside of being a Snacker: Snackers who aren't paying attention to their intake can easily reach for high calorie and low nutrient snacks leaving them constantly feeling hangry and never satisfied. A cupcake, a donut, a bag of chips - doesn't seem like a ton of food, but that is already around 1,000Cal right there.

  • How to be a healthy Snacker: Someone who tends toward this behavior can absolutely live a healthy lifestyle. In this case planning is important. Making sure that there are healthy choices around at all times is key. The benefit to snackers is that by the time they sit for their evening meal, they aren't super hungry so it's easy to make healthy choices for food and portion size.

  • What to snack on and when: Keep cut up vegetables, hardboiled eggs, avocados, yogurt bombs (see recipes below) and whatever else you can easily grab and go in your fridge so when you're home, you can have a delicious high nutrient and/or low sugar snack on hand when you need them. Make sure to keep nuts and bars in the car and purse/backpack (see below for non-melty bar options) so if you get stuck out and about, you can grab a quick bite. Try to keep most snacks high in protein and fiber and low in sugar. Veggies and fruits are also a great way for snackers to get in even more frequent snacking without reaching a super high caloric intake.

2. The Meal Planner: 

Meal Planners LOVE their meals! If you are a meal planner, you look forward to planning and making an enticing and delicious meal 3 times a day. If you could have more, you would! Not because you want a ton of food, you just love your meals! You don't really snack much but will sometimes grab a piece of fruit, a container of yogurt or a bag of chips between meals.

  • The downside of being a Meal Planner: Meal planners can easily overeat without realizing it. Lots of ingredients = more calories. Rather than a couple scrambled eggs for breakfast, you may add a tortilla, some salsa, some slices of avocado and some black beans to your meal (my mouth is now watering). This is a very healthy breakfast, actually, but let's break it down: two eggs (150 Cal), with 50 Cal in butter to cook them, 100 Cal per corn tortilla, 80 Cal for 1/4 avocado, 25 Cal for the salsa fresca and 90 Cal in black beans. So while a couple scrambled eggs for breakfast has about 200Cal, you've just bumped up to around 500Cal. Again, this is NOT a bad thing, but it leaves a lot less room snacks. Also, not bad for maintenance but pretty caloric if you're after weight loss.

  • How to be a healthy Meal Planner: Planning and enjoying your meals is awesome! So make sure that you do just that. When you have a meal, make sure to sit and enjoy it. Listen to your body. Stop when you're full. Don't multitask while you eat your meals. If you find yourself needing to take a lunch meeting or eat your lunch on the go, focus on choosing a healthier and lighter option for that meal. Try for one meal a day finding a more portion controlled and lighter option like a lightly dressed salad or a dressed up bowl of yogurt with some berries and seeds. Lower your intake of simple carbohydrates - sub quinoa or zoodles for rice or pasta or sliced whole wheat bread or a wrap instead of a french roll sandwich .

  • What to snack on and when: Meal Planners don't need many snacks but you do need to be aware of timing. Make sure you're not going more than 4 hours between your meals. You'll be less hangry and you'll make more appropriate choices. If you have a big gap and need a snack, grab some fruit or veggies to snack on between meals. Even a bag of skinny pop popcorn will tie you over if you're in a pinch. You have plenty of nutrients in your meals, so keep the snacks low in calories so you can enjoy the high-quality meals you love.

3. The Night Binger: 

This one can be a bit complicated. If you are a Night Binger, you may have extremely busy days and you literally just don't find the TIME to eat during much of the day. Because you tend to have a huge meal and tons of snacks at night, you're not really hungry most of the morning and early afternoon. You may also be someone who is "watching your weight" or even trying to loose weight but you don't have the energy to implement any guidelines. So you get through the day on coffee and La Croix so that when you get home, you can have "whatever you want" for dinner and continue to snack and eat "guilt free" because you were so "good" all day. Sound familiar (it does to me!)?

  • The downside of being a Night Binger: It's probably pretty obvious that this is not healthy nor is it effective. This person will probably be grumpy and on edge during the day. They will choose unhealthy foods and portions at night so they don't even feel very good after eating at the end of the day. The amount of calories that they may take in between 5pm and 10pm can often be wayyyyyyy higher than what they would have eaten (and felt great eating) if they'd eaten between 8am and 7pm. Usually these are the people who also go hard on the weekends. They are exhausted from restricting themselves and feel like they deserve to cheat a bit. This will be another reason they may not be making progress toward their goals.

  • How to be a healthy Night Binger: While it's understandable to want to manage your weight as simply as possible, let's take it back to how you FEEL. This doesn't feel good. Depriving yourself doesn't feel good, and binging doesn't feel good. Waking up full doesn't feel good. You, most likely, will not get the results you want and your sleep and energy will suffer. So let's change this up. Switching to the Snacker is a great option. Have a small high protein and fiber "meal" for breakfast and lunch and add in little 50-200Cal low sugar snacks throughout the day. Then you'll get to dinner feeling ready to eat but you'll be able to enjoy a reasonable quantity and make healthy choices. And you won't feel that compulsion to snack all night because you're actually quite satiated from the day. You'll take in overall less calories and be well on your way to maintaining your weight in a still simple, and definitely more sustainable way!

  • What to snack on and when: Avocado toast is a great breakfast "snack." As is Chia pudding or Yogurt bombs (recipe below!). Hardboiled eggs are awesome with some soy sauce and Sriracha or a chicken apple sausage with some pub mustard. These are all great small meals and snacks to sprinkle in your day. Cheese sticks, fruits, veggies, and protein bars are all great small high nutrient snacks and mini meals.

Some of my staples:

Veggies: Carrots (big organic ones, not the styrofoam tasting packaged baby carrots), jicama, baby bell peppers. Choose these when you're feeling peckish but not famished! OR if you're super hungry but you know you've got a meal coming your way within the hour. They satisfy your craving to eat and get that blood sugar moving back away from hanger!

Fruits: Bananas (no, they are not the devil - this is a GREAT source of nutrient. And natural sugars make it a nice sweet treat!) - pair them with a dab of your favorite nut butter on each bite (or even nutella) - try to stick to 1 tbsp total - for a great high protein snack, a light and satiating breakfast or a sweet treat at night. Apples, oranges, berries - they're all awesome. Fruit is great when you need super quick energy, if you want something sweet, or are wanting something a bit heartier than veggies but don't need a full protein fix. Awesome pre workout snack if you're someone who can't workout on an empty stomach. You will have energy and not get that barfy feeling (often caused by your body needing to use blood and energy to digest high protein or fatty foods when it's busy trying to send blood to your muscles during a workout instead).

Grass fed beef sticks and cheese sticks: such an easy grab and go option. They will keep hunger at bay and they're delish (if you're into a food formed into the shape of a stick!). These are great on the go or to hold you over when you're not sure when you can get to your next bigger meal or snack. They'll keep the hanger away and provide some great energy.

Nuts: Don't over think it. There are a lot of varieties with very varying nutrient levels. But grab some you like - roasted, salted, unsalted, raw... whatever! Have a handful or two (max) throughout the day or all at once. Another awesome option to keep you satiated and going strong on busy days. Also great post workout. 

Chicken sausages of any sort with no nitrates, deli meats (no nitrates), meat or veggie patties: These are all awesome quick mini meals or grab and go options. A few slices of uncured salami when you're feeling peckish or heat up a chili lime chicken patty (Trader Joe's FTW!) or a Garden burger. Dip in ketchup, mustard and/or relish and have at it! I'll often have this for "lunch" amongst a day of snacking. 

Protein Bars: I'll do a whole separate newsletter about these! But, again, keep it simple! There are plenty of guidelines about how many grams of sugar to look for or how much protein and fiber, but just find one you like! If it's high in calories (250+), break it in half and have 1/2 in the morning and 1/2 at night! Look for bars where you recognize (and can even see!) most of the ingredients. But some of the more processed ones are pretty clean, so read some labels and find one you feel comfortable with. Or try a few to figure it out! I love Lara bars, Rx Bars, GoMacro Bars, Kind Bars, Cliff Bars, and Quest Bars (cookie dough!). But that's just me! These are great to keep in your purse or in the car (especially the ones that won't get melty!) so you can have a great meal substitute if you find yourself out and in danger of missing a meal or getting so hungry your functionality starts to diminish!

For some munchies when you want to let loose (just a bit!): I love Skinny Pop Popcorn. Lightly salted (and they have a kettle corn version!) and delish. I super LOVE to make my own. I have an air-popper and I add a bit of olive or coconut oil (spray makes it super easy) with some salt and whatever else - sugar, stevia, some chili powder even - you can really get creative if you want! 

Avocado and crispbread: A nice 1/4 avocado laid on top of a hearty, seedy cracker (my favorites are Doctor Kracker CrispbreadsTrader Joe Gluten Free Norwegian Crispbread, or Wasa Crackers) with a bit of salt and pepper is SO delicious and SO satisfying! Another one that is great as a light breakfast or lunch (padded by other snacks throughout the day!).

Desserts: I am a firm believer in treats! I like to try to tell people to keep it to one treat a day. And TRY to save it for after dinner! That glass of wine or cocktail to wind the night down or a yummy dessert! I love Skinny Cow ice cream treats of all varieties - they have chocolate covered bars, ice cream on a stick, ice cream sandwiches and ice cream cones! They are all under 200 Cal and delish AF. Sometimes I find myself really wanting to have the decadent kind of treat, though. For these times I adore the mini Magnum bars. Incredible chocolate with caramel and ice cream. It's the perfect size to feel satisfied and not like you went overboard. Halo top and a couple other companies make low calorie pints of ice cream. These are also pretty awesome and it's only 280-350 Cal for the whole pint incase you go overboard! But, really, treatyoself however you want or need - try to find a reasonable portion size and enjoy! 

Remember: you can't ruin a diet with 1 brownie (really, no matter how big it is!), but you can do some damage by eating an entire tray of them! Every choice you make, you are in control. Make a choice you wish you didn't make? One too many donuts? Try to balance it out the rest of the day. You've got this! Live healthy AND be happy! 

My Snacky Recipes!

Yogurt bombs:

This is a simple overnight oats recipe. I use 8oz mason jars so they are individually portioned: Combine 1/3c any type of milk, 1/4c rolled oats, 1/4c Greek yogurt, 2tsp chia seeds, 1tbsp honey, and 1 tsp cinnamon in a 1/2-pint jar with a lid; cover and shake until combined. Remove lid and fold in blueberries or add them in the morning. Cover jar with lid. Leave 8hrs to a week. Or Freeze and thaw right before eating! Sometimes I add slivered almonds and chopped up dried fruit and/or flax seeds. Make it your own! Great for Breakfast OR a light but filling lunch!

Salty Spicey Eggs:

These don't take as much work as it looks. Boil an egg to your desired consistency, cut it in half and drizzle some soy sauce and Sriracha on it and pop 'em in yo' mouth! You can also soak the Egg white in Soy Sauce for 5 min - 6hrs (whatever floats your boat), scoop out the yolk and devil it up with some mustard and mayo (organic, obvi), some salt and pepper and some Sriracha. Then put it all together, drizzle more Hot Cock (There's a rooster on the bottle!) and add some green onions. Amazing flavor and tons of protein.

As always, I want to hear from YOU! Really! How's it going? Working on any new goals? Need any help? Any thoughts or ideas you'd like to see? Respond to this email and check in and let me know how you're doing!