As with anything, there is an art to smart snacking, meaning finding foods that will cure your hunger, leave you satisfied and give you the motivation you need to tackle your to-do list.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with snacking,” says Amy Lee, M.D., a board-certified physician specializing in internal medicine, member of the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists and the American Board of Obesity Medicine, and head of nutrition for Nucific.
“It is the type of foods you snack on that can help you maintain your mood, mental clarity and metabolism—or break them.” For starters, Lee recommends avoiding processed snack foods packed with simple sugars. “It’s about being smart with your snacks and making every little thing you eat count,” she says.
Here are Lee’s top tips for smarter snacking.
1. Understand why you’re snacking.
According to Lee, most times people snack because of boredom—or simply the need to do something with their hands. “Next time, before grabbing that snack, stop and question if you really need the snack … or are you just bored or anxious?” she says.
2. Choose snack foods with protein.
Once you’ve determined that you truly need a snack, try to eat something that will leave you feeling satisfied and energized. “If you’re hungry and your body needs a quick pick-me-up, focus on foods that are satiating or at least hold you over until your next meal without all the drowsiness-inducing sugar.” Protein is a great choice. Try hard-boiled eggs, veggies with hummus, or a small protein bar containing the essential amino acids.
3. Give grazing a go.
“The act of eating little bits can help extend the time of snacking, which can also reinforce the idea to the brain that you are eating,” explains Lee. “Don’t ‘inhale’ your food in one big gulp, because your brain takes time to register that you are putting food into the body (this can take up to 20 minutes!) to make that connection.”