Snack foods are often high in calories, sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats.
While these ultra-processed foods might give you a very brief moment of pleasure, they provide very little nutrition, and overindulgence can easily lead to health problems for you.
They also don’t tend to be very filling – they’re designed to make you want to eat more and more.
Snacking in a Healthy Way
Healthy eating shouldn’t mean that you cut out tasty snacks.
There are plenty of delicious and nutritious snacks that will give you sustained energy throughout the day without any health risks.
The key to snacking in a healthy way is picking the right foods. Instead of processed snacks, choose natural, whole foods high in protein.
Protein-rich snacks will help you feel fuller for longer and likely satisfy your appetite better than carbohydrates and fatty foods. This means you’ll be less likely to crave more food later, less likely to overeat, and less likely to gain weight.
What is Protein?
A protein is a long chain of amino acids – hundreds or thousands.
What is an amino acid?
An amino acid is a molecular compound that contains both an amino group (an atom of nitrogen with two hydrogen atoms) and a carboxylic acid group (a carbon atom with two oxygen atoms and one hydrogen atom).
Along with these two groups, each amino acid has a side chain (or R-group) unique to that particular type of amino acid.
Twenty types of amino acids are combined to form proteins. Eleven of these amino acids are produced by the human body (nonessential amino acids), while the other nine must be consumed in our diet (essential amino acids).
The proteins in your food are broken down into their constituent amino acids by your stomach acids and enzymes. Then they are absorbed into your intestines and brought to your liver.
Your liver then uses these amino acids as ingredients to create new proteins.
Proteins are used:
- as the structure of all living cells
- to make enzymes, which produce chemical reactions possible
- for transport and storage of molecules in cells
- to make hormones, which regulate and coordinate many body functions
- as antibodies, which fight disease and protect the body
All of your cells, tissues, and organs need protein to work properly.
Healthy Snack Ideas
Here are some ideas for high protein snacks that you can enjoy:
- trail mix, or a handful of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit
- apple and peanut butter
- veggies and hummus
- cottage cheese and fruit
- yogurt with berries
- beef jerky
- chicken salad
- cheese slices
- hard-boiled eggs
- roasted chickpeas
- homemade granola
- avocado or guacamole
- overnight oatmeal
Experiment with different combinations of these healthy ingredients to find the perfect snack for you.