Despite good intentions, everyone is familiar with having a 'handful of nuts' (half a packet) or a 'bite of a muffin' (the whole thing -- we're only human).
The fact is that although snacking is intuitive, the tricky part is actually eating something that's healthy and in the right amount.
To help out, here's a simple guide to healthy snacking from two dietitians.
"Healthy snacking can improve your overall health, curb cravings, assist with weight management, regulate your mood and give you the energy to keep you going throughout the day," Alexandra Parker, accredited practising dietitian from The Biting Truth, told The Huffington Post Australia.
"As dietitians, we're human and we're not bulletproof to hunger pangs and snacking either. We actually think snacks can be another opportunity to fuel your body and enhance a balanced diet."
The most important factor to remember with snacking is to listen to your hunger cues -- don't ignore them or force them.
"At the very least, people need to be eating three meals a day. If you're not hungry between meals then there may be no need to add snacks in," accredited practising dietitian Anna Debenham said.
"However, if you're only having three meals and are ravenous at these meals and perhaps overeating as a result, then adding snacks in between meals could be a good option. The bottom line is that it depends on your individual health needs and goals."
Although snacking is a great way to avoid overeating at main meals and keep your body fuelled, the main traps we fall into often have negative consequences on our weight maintenance or weight loss goals.
"You might be ticking the boxes with your main meals and physical activity, but little things can sneak into our seemingly healthy routine and become ingrained habits. And before you realise, these little habits can add up and counteract our good intentions," Parker said.
Common snacking pitfalls:
- When snacks are the same size as main meals
- When they are loaded with salt, sugar or fat
- When you eat out of boredom (instead of hunger)
- Choosing low-fibre, low-fat snacks that won't fill you up, meaning you may need to grab another snack shortly
- Mistaking thirst for hunger
The next time you reach for a snack, keep these healthy snacking tips in mind.
1. Consider the size
"The easy part is eating frequently -- the hard part is keeping the amount you eat to a snack size," Debenham told HuffPost Australia.
"A snack should not be the same size as a main meal. Snacks are really just a small hit to take the edge of your hunger and provide a boost of energy."
With this in mind, aim for your snacks to be around 600 kilojoules (roughly 150 calories).
"However, this may be less for people who are watching their weight, or more for active people," Parker said. "Examples include one small apple with 10 almonds, 100 grams of natural low fat yoghurt with a quarter cup of muesli, or two whole grain crackers with 30 grams of reduced fat cheese."
2. Tune into hunger cues
Boredom or stress eating is something we all do, so it's helpful to ask yourself whether you're truly hungry or not.
"Tune in and listen to your hunger cues. It is important that you eat when you are actually hungry, and not because you're a bored, tired or emotional," Parker said.
3. Keep healthy snacks with you
There's nothing worse than getting hangry when you're on-the-go. This makes going to the nearest convenience shop for a quick doughnut, chocolate bar or pie way too easy.
"If you have healthy snacks on you, you will eat healthy snacks," Debenham said. "Always keep some snacks on hand to avoid going to the cafe or vending machine."
And, it goes without saying, keep processed junk food snacks like chips, biscuits, lollies, chocolate and pastries as treats.
4. Prioritise fibre and protein
The ideal snack, which will keep you full for the longest, are those which are high in both fibre and protein. Think muesli and yoghurt, roasted chickpeas, whole grain crackers with peanut butter, nuts and fruit, and veggies and hummus.
"Choose snacks that are high in fibre and protein as these will help to keep you feeling full and satisfied and prevent overeating at main meals," Debenham said.
Here are some healthy snack ideas:
- Low fat yoghurt with muesli
- Chia pudding
- Healthy homemade muffin
- Hummus or guacamole and veggie sticks
- Low sugar muesli bar
- Whole fruit or fruit salad
- Small bowl of miso soup with tofu
- Homemade kale chips
- Strawberries dipped in natural yoghurt
- Banana berry 'nice cream'
- Unsalted nuts (roughly 20 almonds, 16 cashews, 45 pistachios)
- Green smoothie
- Roasted chickpeas and fava beans
- Whole grain crackers (e.g. Ryvita or Vita-Weat) with nut butter or cottage cheese and berries
- Air-popped popcorn with smoked paprika or cinnamon
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA