Answer courtesy of Sarah Nicklay, MS, RD, multysite dining services at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Smart snacking can be an important strategy to keep your energy high when your schedule is hectic. It is important to keep healthy snacks on hand to avoid reaching for a convenient sugary or salty treat. Snacking throughout the day can help stave off hunger in between meals and prevent you from feeling tired, sluggish and irritable. Getting too hungry in between meals can lead to overeating when you do get to your next meal. Combining healthy protein with complex carbohydrates with fiber, like whole grains, will keep you feeling full for a longer period of time.
If you’re looking for on-the-go snacks that contain both protein and fiber, nuts and nut butters combined with fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the perfect solution. Watch your portion sizes as calories from nuts and nut butters can add up quickly. The portion size for nut butters is 2 tablespoons, the size of a ping pong ball, and the portion size for nuts is 1/4 cup, the size of an egg. Spread peanut butter or your favorite nut butter on whole grain crackers, bread, bagels, English muffins or rice cakes. Top with cut fruit, dried fruit, seeds or granola for a little extra pizzazz. Fruit like apples and bananas also go well with nuts butters and pack a nutritional punch. Try making “ants on a log” (peanut butter and raisins on celery) or make a nut butter dip for vegetables like a Thai peanut dip. Make your own snack mix with whole grain cereal, granola or lite popcorn, and nuts, seeds and dried fruit. The combinations of healthy munch mixes are endless! Also look for snack bars that contain at least 2 grams of protein and fiber, or make your own. Spiced and dried edamame and chickpeas also make great snacks that are packed with protein and fiber.
If you can pack a lunch box with a freezer pack or will be eating your snack within two hours, there are even more possibilities. Try fat-free yogurt with fruit, granola or whole grain cereal or low-fat cottage cheese, string cheese or cheese wedges with whole-grain crackers or a rice cake. Half of a turkey sandwich or wrap is also a satisfying snack. Try hummus with vegetables, whole-grain crackers or pita wedges. Bean salads or dips with vegetables are a tasty source of vegetable protein. A hard-boiled egg or chocolate milk with your favorite whole-grain is another option. Lastly, tuna salad with whole-grain crackers is not only full or protein and fiber, but the tuna also contains healthy fats. Remember to snack consciously and practice moderation to incorporate snacks into your healthy lifestyle without overdoing it.