3 Tips for Snacking like a Dietitian

March 15, 2024

When you hear the word “snacking”, what is the first thing you think of? Do you feel comfortable with what you choose and the way you enjoy snacks? Or do you snack by default based mostly on what’s available?

We’ve all been there – it’s 3:00 pm, lunch is behind us with dinner on the distant horizon. Your stomach is growling and the office vending machine and that day-old muffin are starting to look like real options. What’s happening?

Biologically speaking, you are likely experiencing your blood sugar levels dipping a little bit low. Three to five hours after we eat a meal, our blood sugar levels often drop to a point where we can begin to perceive physical symptoms and we start feeling tired. So what do we do? We honor our hunger by refueling with a snack that provides our bodies energy to recharge. Today, I will share my top tips for snacking like a pro dietitian (click here for dietitian vs. nutritionist). By following these few tips, you’ll see balancing likes, and convenience with nutrition can be easier than you think!

Tip #1: Timing is everything

The challenge with snacking is that first, we need to be in tune with our bodies’ natural hunger/fullness signals (aka intuitive eating). This way you will be able to distinguish between hunger versus appetite.

As a rule of thumb, I recommend clients aim to eat no more than three to five hours apart, which usually end up being three meals a day and one or two snacks. A snack is usually necessary when you subtly hungry (around a 2 out of 5), and often happens during the mid-afternoon slump or right after a workout. If you come home from work feeling ravenously hungry (<1 out of 5 on the hunger scale), you probably would feel a lot better if you had a power snack a couple of hours before suppertime!

Tip #2: Pick satisfying foods you actually like!

Let’s be honest, how many of you pack a lunch bag filled with perceived-to-be-healthy foods that you actually despise, only for it to be tossed in the trash later? Obviously, if your lunchbox or fridge is filled with foods you don’t like, you won’t eat them!  The next KEY to snacking like a pro is to know what you like, and what combination of different foods will satisfy you and fill you up. Which brings us to the next tip…

Tip #3: Plan ahead and pair up foods

I cannot tell you how much time I’ve saved by packing my snacks for the week on the weekend! It may take a little bit more planning, but it sure beats scrambling your brain on what to eat when you are ravenously hungry. Plan ahead and here is where you can make up for it!

  1. Increase protein. Pair nuts with your fruit. Keep hard-boiled eggs in your refrigerator to throw in a to-go container as you run out the door.
  2. Up your fiber. Sprinkle fiber-dense chia seeds on your yogurt or add to your smoothie.
  3. Keep it interesting. Let’s be honest, we love things that are convenient and that taste good. Balancing these two with nutrition is easier than you might think. Depending on the amount of time you have for prep, here are some ideas:
  1. Fruit: Change things up – try a pear instead of an apple, a few kiwis instead of a banana, and berries instead of grapes. Plus you’ll be getting your antioxidants too!
  2. Veggie sticks and dip: Cucumber or bell pepper sticks with a bit of hummus is easy. Keep pre-sliced veggies in sealed containers in your refrigerator and you will never be without a snack.
  3. Spice it up: Toss a small handful of nuts with your favorite spices. One of my favorites is cinnamon and nutmeg. Lightly spray nuts with some oil so spices adhere. Feel free to lightly toast in oven.

If you’re interested, check out the recipes section of my website. I highly recommend the chocolate no-bake power balls recipe!