By Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN
Summer is arguably one of the most on-the-go seasons of the year, with an endless amount of outdoor adventures and activities to enjoy. But, that also means you may need to plan for more quick-and-easy snacks that can easily be thrown in your bag for that impromptu beach day or afternoon hike.
While there are a lot of opinions when it comes to snacking (and how much is too much), it’s always best to focus more on choosing balanced snacks that will keep you feeling full and satisfied, and just trust your body to know how often you personally need a snack. Most likely, depending on the day or week, your body’s needs and cravings will change and that is 100 percent okay!
Avoid the 5PM Crash
Despite varying opinions, almost everyone can benefit from having some type of pre-dinner/late-afternoon snack to avoid reaching dinnertime in a state of ravenous hunger. Oftentimes, the span between lunch and dinner is the longest period people will go without eating, which is why having a balanced on-the-go snack handy for when that late-afternoon crash starts to hit can come in really handy.
Keeping a balanced snack on you for your commute home or as pre-workout fuel will prevent you from making unhealthy choices or overeating later and help sustain your energy (and mood) throughout the rest of the day.
How to Know if Your On-the-Go Snack is Balanced
The point of having a snack is to help keep your energy levels up, hunger in check and blood sugar balanced – which is the exact opposite of what will happen if your snacks are full of processed grains and refined sugars. It’s important to know what to look for in a balanced snack so that you can avoid the dreaded blood sugar crash or ravenous hunger later.
So, the next time you’re choosing a snack, make sure to look for a combination of the following nutrients that will help you stay energized and satisfied all day long.
- Fat: Fat is an essential macronutrient that helps increase satiety, meaning you’ll feel fuller, longer. So, if you find yourself always feeling hungry within 30 minutes of having a snack, chances are you need to add more fat.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are critical sources of energy for your body and they’re especially important if you’re heading off to do something active. Carbohydrates can be found in vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes, and are best consumed in their whole form. Opt for whole grains or whole fruits and veggies over processed or refined grains and sugars.
- Protein: Protein is another macronutrient that helps balance how quickly carbohydrates rush into your bloodstream, which helps ensure a steady stream of energy. Protein also helps you feel fuller, longer and is an especially good option after a workout to help repair and build muscle.
- Fiber: Fiber is found in plant-based foods like vegetables, beans, grains and fruits, and is the material that can’t be fully broken down by the body. Technically, fiber doesn’t contain any nutritional value, but it is essential for keeping your blood sugar balanced and improving digestion, and is a key component in improving satiety.