Providing us with energy before and after workouts, controlling hunger, increasing metabolism, and helping reduce late-night cravings are some of the positives of healthy snacking. Snacks also provide additional nutrients – calories, protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals we might miss at other times of the day.
Being mindful of portion sizes to reduce overeating is an important aspect of snacking. Eating directly out of the bag or container of a certain food item can cause overeating. Portioning out your snacks can help you eat adequate amounts without overdoing it. For very active or larger individuals who may need more calories, sometimes a standard serving size is too little. Knowing you can always go back for more food may help provide a source of comfort while listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
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Nutrient-dense snacks can help reduce sources of empty calories and added sugar when knowing what to look for and how to prepare. When choosing a snack, it is important to focus on at least two food groups with an emphasis on protein, paired with a complex carbohydrate or healthy fat. A protein/complex carbohydrate snack is an excellent choice prior to a really tough, high-intensity workout session (such as sprint training), as the body prefers to use carbohydrates as a fuel source during this time. If the session is low intensity, such as yoga or walking, the body may not need as many carbohydrates, and a protein/fat snack may be beneficial during this time. After a workout, a quick sugar such as fruit or honey, combined with protein, is a great choice to help repair the muscles while providing some energy.