I'm certain we all have different thoughts on what we do and don't like for snacking habits, but one thing we can probably all agree on is that it gets just a little more difficult when we have unpredictable schedules, like during the holiday season. Probably just the word "holiday" is enough to increase your anxiety level, much less toss in there the idea of eating those holiday favorites and not impacting any work you did all year to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Not to mention any hopes you have for starting the new year off without any weight gain during the season. One way to stay on track is by including healthy snacks. I know, sounds like it could be counterproductive, but not if done with some forethought and planning.
First off, snacking can always be part of a healthy diet, but only if those snacks are carefully selected, and packed with nutrients. Sounds easy enough, but I know many are still hesitant to give snacking a chance. Any of the basic principles you can think of that make a healthy meal are also the basics that help with creating healthy snacks. So my big tip here is to focus on more than 1 food group. I always recommend aiming for at least 2 food groups, which can help increase the different vitamins and minerals you can get from those snacks.
Second, don't over do it. Snacks should complement your meals without exceeding your calorie needs. If you aren't snacking now but plan to add in snacks, remember that you need to cut back on your meals. Snacking is a pick me up between meals but doesn't work if those meals are really large and high in calories.
Third, prepackaged is great, but be wary of sodium. It's ok to love convenience. Having a snack that you can toss in your purse, bag, brief case, or glovebox, means easy access, but it also means an increased chance of too much sodium and even added sugar and fat. This doesn't mean avoid prepackaged snacks altogether, but it does mean you should choose wisely. Read labels and compare products. Even better would be to prepackage those snacks yourself. I personally like buying in bulk and dividing snack items up into my own reusable snack containers or baggies (those can be reusable too). Not only can this save on cost, but it can increase variety because you can mix up the ingredients, like dried fruit and nuts.
Let's get back to the holiday season snacking theme since we are in that week between Christmas and New Years. I know not everyone works from home like I do, but I can guess your schedules aren't 100% normal right now either. You might be on the go, stuck back at your desk after a more active week during Christmas (anyone else spend time walking all over a shopping mall?), or still stuck in a hyper-social state where you seem to be dining out 24/7 with friends and family. Whatever it may be, you may still find that snacks are a healthy way to keep you from overeating at meal times and help boost your intake of nutrients.
So what are my favorite healthy snack ideas? Easy! I have my regular go-to's like non-fat plain Greek yogurt with dried fruit (I usually add dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots), pretzel flats with almond butter or hummus, and roasted nuts mixed with dried fruit. Since it is holiday time there are a few others that become easy based on leftovers from holiday parties:
veggie sticks with hummus or guacamole,
fruit and cheese: there almost always seems to be a little left over from the holiday party fruit platter and the cheese and cracker platter,
and "left over" soup: yes, soup makes a great mid-day snack and bonus points if you can make this on your own with a low sodium broth, leftover veggies and proteins.
Whatever it is you choose, don't forget that snacks make an easy way to boost your fruit, veggie, fiber, and dairy intake (or some calcium alternative if you prefer), especially if you found those lacking in your holiday meals over the last few weeks. These are just some of my favorite holiday snacks. There's no reason to have to give up healthy eating and nutritious foods over the holiday break and this will help you start off 2016 on the right foot.
For more on great snacking ideas, check out these healthy snack ideas from Nuts.com. And for all of my military spouse friends and readers, if you aren't already a fan of Nuts.com, consider checking them out (this is my own personal endorsement as I have been a long time fan and shopper on this website). I have always found this company to be very military friendly and accommodating of those of us living overseas (you know how it can be when you try to ship to an APO address!).
Happy Holidays everyone!