The Ultimate Mini-Guide to Healthful Snacking

Aleksija Vujicic

 

I, like many of you, am spending a lot of time in my kitchen. Like a lot of time… So much time that my fridge and I are on a first name basis. She calls me Lex, I call her Francesca. Between my near hourly visits to the fridge, I’ve gotten to know her on the inside, yet for some reason I still go back to check every single hour, as if I’m miraculously going to find something new (I never do).

Despite that fact, I still manage to return from Francesca with a different snack every time! Whether it be cheese and crackers, a little apple and PB action, my snacking never ceases. If this were an Olympic sport I would be a gold medal winner, but alas, this seems to be the opposite end of the spectrum and there are no prizes to be awarded, only my growing concern over my snacking habits.

 

 

 

I don’t have to tell you that boredom snacking is real- I think we’ve all experienced the need for a snack while watching Normal People (can we also just talk about Connell for one second pls).   Telling the difference between when you’re boredom snacking and when you’re truly hungry is hard enough. Once you decide you are, in fact, hungry, the next challenge arises: what is actually considered a healthy snack (and what should be consumed in moderation), and how does one make those energy balls everyone seems to be whipping up? Is there a professional in the room?

Turns out, there is. We consulted with Holistic Health Coach Thalia Renucci of Renu Health to create the ultimate Mini-Guide to Healthful Snacking — everything you need to know from what defines a “healthy” snack, to how to read a nutrition label and, yes, how to stop boredom snacking, is below.

WHAT IS A “HEALTHY” SNACK ANYWAYS 

The definition of a healthful and well-rounded snack is actually very simple, according to Thalia. “It’s one that satisfies your hunger cravings. After you eat it, you’re left feeling happy, nourished and physically + mentally satiated, allowing you to get through the day without obsessing over what you just at! Think ‘high vibe foods’.” Finally, a definition of healthy snacks that has nothing to do with the carb or fat content!

HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED A SNACK?

Otherwise known as, how do I know if I’m hungry, or if I’m boredom snacking? Otherwise known as, how do I tune into my body?

Thalia reminds us that first and foremost, it’s important to be gentle with our bodies and remember that everyone has different appetites and needs. Your own snacking will differ from day to day depending on hormones, activity level, hydration, and much more! That is why it is incredibly important to listen to our bodies.

“It all starts with mindfulness, which is essentially the space you create between acting and reacting.” Mindfulness is simply a way of talking about the practice we use to tune into our bodies, accept the information it is feeding us, and go forth with informed actions from there.

The first step in being mindful is simple taking a pause, taking a breath, and checking in with ourselves. Close your eyes, inhale deeply, and try the following exercise recommended by Thalia:

Picture yourself eating an apple. Ask yourself, “am I hungry enough for this apple”? If the answer is no, ask your body what it is really feeling.

If you’re experiencing boredom, or just a random desire for something sweet (it happens, I feel you), try to focus your mind elsewhere by going for a walk, calling a friend, reading, or another fun activity, then reassess later on to see if you’re ready for a snack!

If the answer is yes, it’s time to progress to the next step: Choosing a healthful and wholesome snack option!

 

 

THE THREE MAJOR GUIDELINES TO HEALTHFUL SNACKING

It Starts Before The Kitchen

I will be the first to admit that I tend to eat at the very last moment. I finally get home after a long day, and am so hungry that I run to the kitchen and immediately shove whatever is in sight into my mouth. Sound familiar? Thalia advises against this chaotic method, instead suggesting that we try not to let ourselves get ravenously hungry- “this causes your blood sugar levels to drop, which can lead to poorer food choices and a lack of satisfaction when you do end up eating,” Thalia tells us. Start preparing your food when your hunger is at a 7 out of 10. (A lesson I’ll be implementing into my own snacking routine).

Whole Foods, All Day

Thalia’s best tip to follow when you’re thinking about what to have for a snack is to reach for a whole food. Foods that grow from the earth oxygenate our cells and energize our bodies, whereas processed foods can be filled with a lot of hidden ingredients that aren’t great for our bodies, like sugars, preservatives, and hydrogenated oils.

Fiber + Protein = Dream Team

If you’re looking at the nutrition label, look for foods that are high in fiber and protein. According to Thalia, this combination will keep you feeling fuller longer, stabilize your blood sugar levels, and prevent any recurring hunger. If you normally play sports or participate in other after-school activities, this is also a great guideline for post-sport snacks that will help you regain your energy in no time!

 

 

HOW TO DECIDE ON A HEALTHY SNACK

Look For Ingredients You Recognize and Can Pronounce

This may sound obvious, but most skip this step! “Ingredient [labels] are listed in descending order by weight, so those in the largest amounts are listed first.” We want to look for foods whose first ingredients are whole ingredients that we recognize, like nuts, or dates, or something similar! If the first few ingredients are sugar, on the other hand, these are foods we want to make sure we’re only consuming in moderation.

Grain is Golden

If there is a whole grain or whole wheat version of the snack you’re eating, go for that option! It will contain more slow-releasing carbs, as well and fiber and vitamins which will keep you full for longer and sustain your energy, Thalia tells us. Sorry, that might mean keeping sliced white bread as a special treat instead of a daily staple.

Low-Fat and Sugar-Free Aren’t Actually The ‘Healthier Alternative’

We might be tempted to believe that if something says it is low-fat or sugar-free, it must be better for us since fat and sugar are bad, right? Thalia informs us that this actually isn’t the case— foods that boast these labels have typically gone through an alteration process, which takes the product further away from being a whole food. Remember the golden rule: We’re always reaching for as close to a whole food as possible, all ingredients included. Thalia provides a great example of this: “low-fat peanut butter processes out the good fats and replaces them with sugars and processed vegetable oils.” We give you full permission to dig your spoon into that regular jar of PB- no low-fat label necessary.

 

EASY SNACK IDEAS

Francesca is calling my name again, but this time I’m armed with all of the snacking knowledge I could ever need. I’m headed to the fridge (she really is my BFF), but this time I’m going to whip up some healthy, whole food snacks of my own. Thankfully, Thalia has armed us with a list of snacks for all times of the day- no matter how much time we have to prepare it. There is a recipe for hummus below that you don’t want to miss- plus, keep an eye out for her delicious Chocolate Truffle Protein Bliss Balls recipe coming soon 😉

UNDER 5 MINUTES

  • Handful of Unsalted Nuts High in protein, vitamins & fats!
  • Dark Chocolate Aim for 70% and Organic/Fair-Trade
  • Apple w/ A Sprinkle of Cinnamon Cinnamon helps stabilize the blood sugar increase from an apple which helps your hormones!
  • Celery w/ Almond Butter Yummy and satisfying with good fats from the almond butter!
  • Oat/Rice Cakes Layer these with hummus + tomato, avocado or peanut butter!

 

UNDER 10 MINUTES

Homemade Hummus Pairs great with veggies, rice cakes, or pita! 

THE INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 tin of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinse well 
  • 1tbsp Tahini (ground sesame seeds – found in most health food stores or on amazon!)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Juice of 1 large lemon or 1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh is best
  • 2 tbsp tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving 
  • Pinch of salt + pep 
  • Pinch of smoked paprika or spice of choice, for serving

THE STEPS

  1. Blend tahini + lemon juice for a minute, until light + whipped.
  2. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until all are well incorporated – the texture should be smooth and creamy. 
  3. Store in an airtight container – it will keep in the fridge for 5 days. 
  4. To serve, drizzle a touch of olive oil + smoked paprika.

Thalia’s Fun Tip: Spice up your Hummus with new flavors! Try adding in cumin, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic clove, grilled red pepper or toss in some beetroot and crumbled feta too for delicious variety. 

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