Do it the right way – no high-calorie snacks that provide little protein and fiber or too much added sugar.
We Americans snack a lot. According to “What We Eat in America,” Americans get close to one quarter of their total daily calories from snacks.
A recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, based on 40 years of national survey data, also showed that people, especially women, are deriving more and more of their daily calories from snacks eaten in-between meals (especially lunch and dinner) or instead of meals.
Although snacks no doubt can fit into a healthy and balanced diet, sometimes it’s hard to know what to choose to taper hunger or satisfy a craving – especially when you’re overworked, stressed, running around or traveling. And if you choose mostly high-calorie snack foods that provide little protein and fiber and too much added sugar, you might very well over-consume calories – and not quality ones.
That’s why I really like the idea of a new campaign called the Skinnygirl Snack Swap. I learned about the campaign (and took my first spin class ever) at a recent Skinnygirl/Flywheel event in New York City. Created by natural foods chef, reality TV star, successful businesswoman and best-selling author (and mother of one) Bethenny Frankel, the Skinnygirl Snack Swap is one way – and a fun way – to take the guesswork out of choosing a snack. Designed to help you snack smarter and more deliciously without nutritionally derailing your diet, it can be a particularly useful tool to end what Frankel calls “shotgun snacking” – grabbing the first snack you see (like from a vending machine) – and empower women to “treat themselves healthfully.”
What I like most about the Snack Swap is that after it asks you to describe your favorite snack, it recommends a few healthful alternatives. For example, I love chocolatey snacks – especially peanut butter cups. As alternatives, the Snack Swap recommends three lower-calorie, higher-fiber, but still delicious options; two with recipes that are nutritionist-approved, and one for the Skinnygirl Chocolate Peanut Butter with Sea Salt Tasty Nutrition Bar. (On my way home after my interview with Bethenny and Flywheel class, I ate one and thought it was delicious.)
According to Frankel, food shouldn’t be viewed as a BFF or an enemy. And while she doesn’t encourage going to extremes – which only sets you up for failure – she recommends “spoiling your appetite” by being armed and ready with healthy snacks for just those times hunger strikes. “It’s so important for women to keep healthy snacks in their purse. Because even if they’re not hungry when they pack it, they will become hungry at some point during the day. This way they’ll be prepared,” Frankel said.
When asked about her favorite go-to snacks, Frankel loves the taste and convenience of the Skinnygirl Tasty Nutrition Bars. Available at Target stores, as well as online, they come in flavors such as Banana Oatmeal Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Multigrain Pretzel and Chocolate Peanut Butter with Sea Salt (after our interview, I ate one of these and loved it). Each provides no more than 170 calories, and packs in 6 to 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber – a combination that we dietitians know is a dynamic duo that keeps you full and satisfied. A closer look at the ingredients list reveals the bars have 7, 8 and 11 grams of mostly added sugar. But according to registered dietitian Meghan Flynn, who works with the brand, “The sugar content is still a lot less than some other chocolate-based nutrition snack bars, plus the bars don’t contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.” They do, however, contain some palm kernel oil (a saturated fat that has been shown to act as trans fat, which we need to limit) – something to think about if you’re trying to limit such ingredients in your diet.
Some of Frankel’s other top snack picks – many that I often recommend – include steamed edamame with a sprinkle of sea salt; whole-grain crackers with a light cheese spread; almond or peanut butter spread on apple slices; nuts (such as almonds and cashews); a hard cooked egg; and frozen Greek yogurt with berries.
Although Frankel is a big fan of snacking, she also recommends not being a slave to the idea. “Free yourself from snack tyranny by giving yourself permission to skip that mid-morning, afternoon or evening snack. If you aren’t hungry, you don’t need it,” she says. And I couldn’t agree more!
What are your favorite go-to snacks?
Full disclosure: I was invited to interview Bethenny Frankel and to learn about the Skinnygirl Snack Swap campaign and sample Skinnygirl snack foods including the Tasty Nutrition Bars.