Intermittent fasting is a recent health trend. It helps many people to lose and sustain weight loss, improves metabolic health and some claim it adds years to our lives.

And it is easier than most think because our sleeping hours count up and add to our fasting time. Not eating after dinner and skipping breakfast put us into a window of intermittent fasting.

However, if intermittent fasting is not your ideal way to eat, don’t fall into the “one shoe fits all” syndrome and begin feeling “guilty” that you’re not following the recent trend.

Like everything else in life, it does not work for everyone. Eliminate the guilt and focus on healthy eating instead, including, and especially paying attention to any snacks consumed.

Think all snacking is bad?

It’s time to think again. As long as you snack wisely, it can definitely be enjoyed as a part of your daily nutrional intake.

Here are good “snacking” habits anyone can adopt:

Always Keep A Healthy Snack On Hand

If you hope to maintain a healthy diet plan, one of the best tips to know and apply is to prepare ahead of time. This means keeping healthy snacks readily available as an easy “grab” when hunger hits.

The number one reason most people fall off their diet plan is a matter of convenience.

If we have not prepared our pantry ahead of time with healthy “snack choices” our attention turns to whatever is convenient and quick to grab.  Most often, these convenience foods are just that – convenient, but not necessarily healthy. They may be easy to access but don’t provide the body the nutrition it is seeking.

To help combat this unhealthy tendancy, the answer is simple. Keep a smart snack on hand.

Tuna comes in a variety of packaging these days and is a great protein choice as is low-sodium beef jerky (or for those so inclined – homemade jerky). Protein powder mixed in smoothies, a home-made protein bar (even some store-bought ones, (but check the labels before buying for sugar content) and trail mix are also ideal pick-me-ups.

Place a non-perishable snack in your office desk, your car, as well as your purse or briefcase and you’ll find that you are never without a healthy option again.

Liven Up Fresh Fruits And Vegetables

Getting into the habit of serving up fresh vegetables and fruits as often as possible as a quick snack on the go is one of the best ways to ensure you get your nutritional intake met. Yet, many people continually fall short when it comes to these types of foods. The reason?

Boredom. When it comes to vegetables themselves, most people are quick to note that they are bland, boring, and some people actually consider them rather unpleasant tasting in the “raw state.”

Jazzing them up is critical to changing the game. Healthy dips, prepared before hand, can turn your boring vegetables into healthy snacks. You are more likely to reach for them when hunger strikes if some sort of dip is at hand.

Consider preparing this dip with some reduced fat mayonnaise and Greek yogurt along with whatever spices or herbs are prefered. For fruit, you can just as easily use plain yogurt as a dip, flavored with vanilla or cinnamon and sweetened with a touch of honey.

Hummus as well as guacamole are popular dip options for many. Both provide the body healthy benefits so there is no guilt attached to these yummy treats.

Keep Snacks To 200-300 Calories Each

Although our eating habits need to focus on nutrition first we also need to be aware of calorie intake as well, especially when snacking.

It is too easy to fall into the bad habit of snacking mindlessly, not realizing what we’re consuming.
All of this quickly adds up and by the end of the day and we may be tallying far more calories than we intended to.

Snacks should be limited to about 200-300 calories each. This helps ensure that they fit into our daily intake without bumping up our calorie to levels that lead to fat gain. Another reason why raw fruits and veggies are great choices (watch the dip count though)!

Those who are exceptionally active, may need more than 300 calories per snack, but for most people, this fits the bill perfectly.

Healthy snacking keeps our hunger levels under control, stabilizes blood sugar levels, ensuring we maintain our energy all day long.

If you are a late night snacker, don’t panic.
Snacking before bedtime is not a crime when done correctly. Turning to chips, ice cream, candy, chocolate, and of the like – often while watching TV is not the answer. These foods don’t provide much in the way of nutrition, however they are loaded with calories. This is the problem.

A light, 200-300 calorie snack of some plain yogurt with a scoop of protein powder stirred in and topped with blueberries and almonds is a great choice.

If you know you want to eat before bed, this isn’t a habit you have to break, however you do need to plan for it wisely.

In the end, becoming a “conscious eater” whether we’re enjoying a snack or a meal is key to keeping our weight at a healthy number as well as our overall health.

We need to pay attention when we’re eating.

Sitting down rather than standing, putting our utensils down between bites, and taking conscious notice of the texture and smell of the foods we’re consuming all help us to be conscious, healthy eaters.

Lastly, we need to take a moment to rate our hunger before we even begin eating. Many people track their hunger by keeping numbers in a journal. This helps them pinpoint if they are in the habit of eating despite not actually being hungry so they can start making adjustments.

You should only be eating when you’re at a level of seven or eight on the scale of one to ten. If you’re always eating at a six or so, you may be over consuming calories and on a fast track to weight gain.

If intermittent fasting is currently working for you, great! Even intermittent fasters enjoy snacks when they are out of their “window of fasting” time.

For the rest of you? Don’t feel guilty if snacking is something you enjoy and want to continue. As long as you are aware of calorie intake and the main focus is on the nutrient value of your snacks, snacking can contribute to your overall health!

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Carolyn Hansen Fitness