Are you pro or anti snack? The subject of snacking has divided health experts and dieters, alienating those who are constantly armed with nut-filled plastic baggies and those who take pride in their set daily meals. The anti-snack camp argues that snacking is an unhealthy habit that can lead to weight gain, while pro-snackers contest that eating between meals keeps you from overeating, reduces calorie intake, and helps you keep your energy up throughout the day. Who’s right? According to the European Food Information Council, eating frequently can have a beneficial effect on body weight and energy levels, but it’s important to snack wisely.
Healthy snacking means eating in moderation and choosing nutrient dense foods over high-calorie, high sugar options. Snacks should be around 200 calories and should contain fiber or protein to keep you full longer. If you snack smart, you’ll be able to maintain a high mental and physical energy throughout the day. These are some of the best (and worst) snacks.
Best: apple and milk
Fruit always makes a great snack and apples tend to be particularly satisfying. The problem is that fruit passes quickly through your body leaving you hungry soon after. By pairing it with a glass of milk (or nut milk), you’re getting some protein which will help sustain your energy and hunger levels for a couple of hours.
Keep a stash of edamame in your freezer for desperate moments when you need a little something. Run them under steaming hot water and douse in lemon or reduced sodium soy sauce. Just a half-cup of shelled edamame contains nine grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein, and only weighs in at 120 satisfying calories.
Worst: canned fruit
You may think you’re going the healthy route by choosing something with the word “fruit” in the title, but canned fruits are loaded with excess sugar and contain a significantly lower nutrition content than their fresh counterparts. If that wasn’t bad enough, the cans are often lined with a toxic chemical that acts as a preservative.
One of the most popular snack foods is also one of the worst. Chips are high in fat, calories, and sodium. This infamously addictive snack is made from potatoes, a high glycemic vegetable that will spike your blood sugar and leave you wanting more.
Best: apricots and cheese
If you have a sweet tooth or love cheese (or both), you’ll go nuts over this snack. Pack four to six dried apricot halves in a plastic baggie and bring along a one-inch cube of hard cheese. The sweet and salty mix will keep your cravings in check, while giving you some satisfying protein and healthy fats.
Unless you’ve made them yourself and kept an eye on the amount of sugar and butter you mixed in, muffins should be avoided. They’re loaded with added sugars and artificial flavorings. Plus, the calorie content is typically much higher than you’d expect.
Best: veggies and dressing
Fresh veggies always make a good snack. Slice up a cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, and whatever other fresh vegetables you have in the fridge and dip in your favorite salad dressing. You’ll slip in an added serving of veggies and get a boost of fiber to keep you full until your next meal.
Worst: banana chips
They may look harmless, but banana chips are usually fried and have a high saturated fat content. Just one ounce of the chips contains around 145 calories and 40% of your daily saturated fat value.