As the nature and pace of our lives evolve, so do our eating habits. One kind of eating—snacking—is now more commonplace than ever before. IFIC’s 2020 Food and Health Survey found that 59% of Americans snack at least once a day. Despite snacking’s prevalence, it can be hard to know how to build a healthy snack—one that is appropriate for your budget, schedule and flavor preferences. Below we’ve created a few snacker profiles with relevant snacking suggestions. See which one/s you identify with!
The Outdoor Enthusiast
Snacks for the outdoor enthusiast should provide adequate nutrients to help you power through and recover from a long outdoor workout. Specific macronutrient ratios will differ depending on the type of exercises and level of intensity you’re seeking. Typically, for a pre-workout snack, foods with carbohydrates and protein are your best friends. When we eat carbohydrates, they break down into glucose and enter our muscles to give us fuel for our workouts. Additionally, protein helps repair the small tears in our muscle fibers that occur as we exert intense energy. It’s helpful to give yourself between 30 minutes and a few hours to digest your snack before you jump into exercising in order to avoid any GI discomfort. A few pre-workout snacks to consider include hard-boiled eggs and an apple; beef jerky and berries; or cottage cheese, almonds, and grapes. Likewise, don’t forget to refuel with carbs, protein and electrolytes after your workout is done.
The Busy Parent
Parenting is challenging enough on its own, and a busy schedule only complicates matters. Snacks for the busy parent should be healthy, portable and easy to eat with small hands (in case a little one gets hungry too!). Sliced fruits and veggies, cheese cubes, whole-grain crackers and dips such as nut butters or hummus are great options. On a related note, IFIC’s 2019 Food and Health Survey found that parents report overcoming picky eating as the biggest challenge for introducing foods to infants. If your infant or young child is a picky eater, check out these tips.
The One on a Budget
Many of us know what it’s like to be on a tight budget and how challenging it can be to build a healthy snack without breaking the bank. Snacks for the one on a budget include peanut butter, popcorn and oatmeal, which are all relatively inexpensive, shelf-stable options that provide healthy fats, fiber and/or protein. Additionally, apples, bananas and cantaloupe are among the least expensive fruits (per cup). Fresh fruit is perishable, however, so being mindful to purchase the amount that you plan to consume can help save money by reducing food waste. These options can work well if all that’s accessible is a microwave and mini fridge. The key is to build a snack that contains some mix of fiber, protein and fat—if possible—as that combination can help with feeling full and satisfied.
The Mindful Snacker
Have you ever noticed how some people talk about their negative emotions surrounding food? Words and phrases like “bad,” “guilty” or “I shouldn’t” are often associated with certain eating occasions or types of foods that are meant to be enjoyable, celebratory or just plain neutral. Mindful snackers have noticed and are interested in improving their relationship with food through awareness and self-compassion. The mindful snacker takes time to remove distractions, notice hunger and fullness cues and use nonjudgmental language when making food choices. Snacks for this profile can vary widely from an indulgent treat to fruit, nuts and cheese or pretzels and peanut butter. The key is noticing how your body feels before and after the snack.
The One Working from Home
Short on time with a schedule full of meetings and a pantry and fridge constantly at your fingertips? Despite a long to-do list, those working from home can still find ways to snack healthfully. If you suddenly find yourself in front of your pantry, take a moment to check in and ask yourself what you’re looking for. Are you hungry, or are you simply looking for a distraction or a moment of me-time? If you are hungry, are you looking for something sweet, salty, or savory? Do you want a crunchy or chewy texture? Some satisfying snack options include yogurt and berries, trail mix, seaweed and brown rice salad, cheese and whole-grain crackers, salsa and whole-grain tortilla chips, vegetable spring rolls, roasted chickpeas and sliced fruit, or an apple and peanut butter.
The One Looking for a Mini Meal
Sometimes we’re looking for more than just a small snack, but we’re not quite hungry enough for a meal. Sometimes we want our snack to be more of a miniature meal. Such a snack may contain multiple food groups and more calories than a typical snack of 100–300 calories. Not sure where to start? Choose from this matrix of options by selecting one from each category. For example, try pita bread, hummus, sliced bell peppers and almonds.
- Carbs: Rice, crackers, tortilla chips, pita bread
- Protein: Hard-boiled eggs, roasted chickpeas, hummus, beef jerky, yogurt
- Fiber: Sliced apples, celery sticks, berries, sliced bell peppers
- Fat: Avocado, nuts, seeds, butters, oil
Regardless of what type of profile you identify with, it’s helpful to create snacks that contain a mix of macronutrients—that is, fats, carbs and protein—and to try to tune into your hunger as you eat.
Curious about other snacking tips? Check out these IFIC resources.