What do you do when you feel like you’re dragging your feet and its hours until your next meal? If your answer has something to do with caffeine, a vending machine or nibbling on some of the chocolates or cookies that are ubiquitous this time of year, I encourage you turn over a new leaf and try thoughtful snacking instead. This is a sustainable way to boost your energy and keep you going for the long run.
The key is how you snack, not what you snack on. When you feel like reaching for something to munch on, check in with your brain to verify that you are actually hungry- not just bored, thirsty or tired. If that is the case, act accordingly instead of eating. Making the effort to take a deep breath and listen to what your body is telling you will give you more confidence and control over your actions.
As far as the snack goes, avoid very sugary foods and those with many ingredients on their label. Try choosing nutrient-rich snacks one with fiber that will healthfully release energy into your bloodstream at a steady rate. A fun way to do this is to combine at least two food groups together, packing the most nutrition in per bite.
Here are some snacks I like:
✴ Whole wheat pita chips & cottage cheese, drizzled with a little ho
ney & cinnamon
✴ Cucumber slices with hummus & olives
✴ Yogurt with some peanuts and grapes mixed in
✴ Celery sticks with natural peanut butter & dried cranberries
✴ Whole wheat tortilla with salsa & black beans
✴ Apple slices with cheddar cheese on wheat crackers
✴ Homemade “trail mix” made by combining nuts, raisins & whole grain cereal
Once you decide on the snack your body is asking for, prepare it and put it on a plate. Do not eat your snack standing up or in the drivers seat! Sit down and enjoy it in a civilized manner, appreciating it and the little break you’re allowing yourself to have from whatever is on your mind. Eating a well rounded snack in a calm environment will reduce your stress levels. Although thoughtful snacking may be more difficult to do away from home or in a noisy place, it is worthwhile to improvise with your surroundings and find a way to treat yourself right (carrying basic utensils and a key-chain knife prepares you for hungry situations whenever they hit). At first, thoughtful snacking is a little more difficult than scarfing on a bag of chips, but with some practice your mind and body will feel the difference and thank you for making the effort in the long run.
A version of this post originally appeared on The Fresh Dish in 2010.