Eating healthy doesn’t apply solely to what you consume for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is, unless the only time you eat is at mealtimes.
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Most of us, however, like to have a couple of snacks during the day. The right snacks can help us to focus mentally by taking the edge off our hunger and can provide a much-needed energy boost until the next meal.
It’s important to choose wisely when selecting your snacks. You may eat the healthiest lunches in the office, but all of those salad greens and turkey sandwiches on whole-grain breads won’t amount to much if you’re noshing on junk between meals.
Junk food such as candy bars, soda and potato chips won’t help power you through your afternoon — and consistent consumption of junk foods can harm your body over the long run by boosting your risk for disease.
One strategy to make sure you’re eating the most nutritious snacks is to plan ahead, says dietitian Denise Cole, RD.
This way you avoid deciding while standing in front of the vending machine at 3 p.m. with your stomach growling. You will already have made the clear-headed choice — with better options at hand.
Here are five other tips to increase your snacking savvy:
1. Plan your snacks for the work week and make them at home on Sunday night
Put your snacks in serving-size bags or containers so all you have to do is grab a couple on your way out of the door in the morning.
Ms. Cole suggests making up individual containers of juicy watermelon or other fruit. Or cut up crunchy celery into sticks that you can munch on at your desk. The point is to plan healthy and plan ahead.
“It makes it much easier when you feel overworked, overstressed and overscheduled,” Ms. Cole says.
2. Considering adding a little protein to keep hunger at bay
Bring along a handful of heart-healthy nuts to accompany the fruit or a tablespoon of peanut butter for your celery.
3. Snack on fruits with the skin on them
Don’t peel your fruit. The skins on apples, peaches or plums provide extra fiber and will help you to feel fuller for a longer period of time. Whole fruits are delicious and portable, easily stored at work and eaten without plates or utensils. Wash the fruit at home so you can eat them immediately at work.
4. Bring snacks that won’t spoil quickly
Consider high-fiber cereal bars or a cup or two of a nutritious dry cereal. Ms. Cole suggests keeping a can of tuna and a can opener in your desk drawer.
“Right there you have a lunch if you get stuck at your desk unexpectedly for the day,” Ms. Cole say. “You don’t want to skip eating. That’s another bad thing to do when you’re trying to maintain your weight.”
5. Try drinking a glass of water or decaffeinated tea with your snack
Liquids can help you to feel full and are good for you too. Research suggests that adequate hydration increases cell metabolism, allows the muscles to work harder by providing oxygen and promotes the body’s elimination of waste.