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 to power you through the 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 Beth Czerwony, RD. This way you avoid deciding while standing in front of the vending machine (or your fridge) at 3 p.m. with your stomach growling.
Here are five tips help make you snack 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 (or can easily grab one between Zoom meetings).
Czerwony 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,” she says.
2. Considering adding a little protein to keep hunger at bay
Pair 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 or eaten without plates or utensils when you’re on the go. Wash the fruit at home so you can eat them immediately at work.
4. Pack snacks that won’t spoil quickly
Consider high-fiber health bars or a cup or two of a nutritious dry cereal. Czerwony suggests keeping a pre-seasoned pack of tuna at your desk that you can easily open and eat with a fork.
“Right there you have a lunch if you get stuck at your desk unexpectedly for the day,” Czerwony says. “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.