Healthy Ways to Snack at Home
Feb 08, 2021 Cedars-Sinai Staff
If you love to snack, you're not alone. One recent consumer survey found that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 88% of adults say they are snacking either more or the same as they were before.
Additionally, 67% of those working from home during the pandemic say they prefer snacking over meals.
Regularly eating processed foods and high-calorie snacks can pose many health risks, but are there healthy ways to snack? Is it possible to snack throughout the day and still lose weight?
What is considered a healthy snack?
Soumar Haddad, dietetic intern at Cedars-Sinai, says there are healthier ways to snack.
"If you're tempted to snack on highly processed foods such as chips and candy, try switching to snacks that are less processed, more nutrient-rich and have a good balance of fat, protein and carbs, such as hummus and carrots or apples with peanut butter," Soumar says.
When opting for these healthier snacks, it's important to still be mindful of calories and portion control if you are trying to lose weight. The key is to not only pay attention to how many calories are in each snack, but the caloric makeup as well.
"With each snack, you need to look at where these calories are coming from," Soumar says.
For example, a 200-calorie snack that contains 6 grams of fat, 12 grams of protein and 25 grams of carbs with at least 3-5 grams of dietary fiber is a healthier option than a 200-calorie snack that contains 6 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 38 grams of carbohydrates with 0-1 grams of fiber.
The higher the protein and fiber, the better the snack.
How to curb cravings and stave off hunger
When choosing healthy snacks, either to replace a meal or to keep your hunger at bay throughout the day, Soumar says she always encourages people to make sure the snacks they're eating contain some protein.
Studies have shown that dietary protein is the most satiating macronutrient, in that it can affect your appetite-regulating hormones, making you feel less hungry for longer.
Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are also healthy options for snacking.
"It takes longer for your body to digest and absorb fiber, which will make you feel more full for a longer period," Soumar says.
Get physical to prevent weight gain from snacking
Due to the stay-at-home orders or changes in lifestyle, you may have gained weight in the past year.
A study published in Obesity in Oct. 2020 found that during the pandemic, while more people reported eating healthier (due to eating out less and cooking more), the amount of time people spent doing physical activity declined. The study also found that those who reported weight gain had little change in their eating behaviors but demonstrated the largest declines in physical activity.
Soumar says that she herself put on a few pounds last year, even though she was eating the same amount as before the pandemic. This was likely due to living a more sedentary lifestyle.
"For some people working from home, they might be gaining weight not because they're eating more, but because they're not burning as many calories and fat as before," Soumar says.
"There's no type of food—even if it's healthy—that will burn fat for you. You need to move your body, and you need to be active."
As a general rule, Soumar recommends doing 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
If you are trying to lose weight, it's important to not only track your calories, including your protein, carb and fat intake, but also know how many calories you're burning throughout the day.
"Listen to your body. Try asking yourself, 'Am I hungry or just craving something?'"
Listen to your body
It's not always easy to resist the temptation of salty or sweet snacks, especially when you work from home. If you don't have time to eat a full meal or prefer to snack instead, try switching to healthier snacks to keep your hunger levels and cravings in check.
"Listen to your body," Soumar says. "Try asking yourself, 'Am I hungry or just craving something?' Focus on eating a balanced, healthy diet, rather than restricting calories or forcing yourself to not eat when you are hungry."