After a long day of classes, a short lunch break and a series of after school activities, it’s natural to be hungry after school. In fact, studies show children and teens need more food during the afternoon to properly grow.
Snacking matters. So does picking the right thing to eat in the middle of the afternoon. We know potato chips are bad for us; we may not know the best way to select the right snack to keep us healthy an energized. Here are five simple steps to a healthier snack:
Your body is hungry because it needs nutrients to keep going. Eating foods with added sugar (candy bars, pop, potato chips) temporarily tells your stomach it’s full, and the rest of your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. Then, the body tells the stomach you need more food.
This is the recipe for gaining weight. You can eat less and feel more full if you pick the rights snacks.
Fiber helps your body recharge. Fruits, vegetables, breads and cereals are the best places to find fiber. For younger people, especially those playing sports, fiber is a must have in the afternoon after a game or practice.
The average body has more than 37 trillion cells. Protein is in every single one of those cells, helping strengthen bones, muscles and skin. We have to have it.
Food like peanuts, almonds, peanut butter (or soy butter), yogurt and cheese all have protein and help keep you going in between meals. Here’s a shopping guide of 25 good high protein snacks.
The challenge is moderation. Protein also comes with fat, and too much fat can hurt your body.
Putting It All Together:
By itself, a handful of peanuts may not feel like enough. But federal food guidelines say that small handful meets guidelines for saturated fat.
So you want to eat more without stacking up calories? This is where fruits and vegetables come into play. The combination of protein and fiber also make you feel full. You also get a chance to eat more. Ideally, the best snack should have protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamins. One food can’t do it all. A combination can.
Keep Your Options Open:
Crunchy, munchy or sweet. We all have different wants at different times. The key is having something at home that helps meet those needs.
Here’s a list from the American Heart Association with healthy snacks for any kind of appetite.
Here’s a cheat sheet with more healthy eating tips and advice on reading food labels to get the most out of your afternoon snack.
There’s nothing wrong with snacking. In fact, healthy people need to do it in order to stay energized. The key is knowing what you put in your body and when to set limits. That combination will lead to a happier and healthier you. Happy snacking!