Snacking between meals is incredibly common, and probably for good reason; most of us get hungry in between the three traditional meals, which tend to be spaced several hours apart, at least. A tasty, filling, small bit of food to quell your rumbling tummy can be a lifesaver if it’s chosen carefully, but what if it isn’t?
Some snacking rules of thumb, like staying far away from candy, are pretty obvious and easy to remember, but others may come as a surprise, and may not seem intuitive at all. You might be thinking that your snacks made of things like yogurt, rice cakes, or calorie-free diet soda aren’t so bad, but be careful, because you could be wrong. Thankfully, Vine Vera is here to step in and make sure you know what you’re getting into when you grab a delightful snack from the fridge or pantry shelf with these handy rules to remember every time you snack.
Calorie-Free Doesn’t Always Mean Good
It’s easy to understand why you might look at something that boasts “zero calories” or “calorie free,” since that means it’s not going to contribute to your total daily values of calories, and theoretically means it won’t affect your weight gain. This is technically true on both counts, but there are a couple catches. For one, while not definitively proven, research suggest that products that contain artificial sweeteners will leave you craving a lot of real sugar afterward, and most calorie-free foods do contain artificial sweeteners, even if you wouldn’t think it would. Things like diet soda are obvious, but considering almost every kind of processed food contains added sugar in our society, the calorie-free foods have to replace it with something, and while natural sugar-free sweeteners are an option (more on that in a moment), they’re more expensive, so most food companies don’t use them. Further, many artificial sweeteners have been identified as possible carcinogens. It’s uncertain for sure how much truth there is in the claim, but is it really worth risking an increased risk of cancer?
To solve these problems, avoid anything with added artificial sweeteners like sucralose, saccharine, or aspartame. Even if it has a bit of real sugar in it, it’s probably better, so long as it’s only a bit. Overdoing it on sugar is just as bad as braving the perils of artificial sweetener. Further, if you want to use a non-sugar, no-calorie sweetener, use a naturally derived one like stevia, and look for stevia or stevia leaf extract on ingredient lists of sugar-free treats.
The Less Processed, the Better
It might seem like this one should go without saying, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. To get the most nutrition and the least amount of health risks out of your food, aim for whole foods like fresh fruit or veggies, or products made with all natural or organic ingredients and only minimally processed, like whole wheat bread or smoothies without artificial additives, for example.
If you can help it, just stay far, far away from snacks like processed potato or corn chips.
Light is Good, But Make Sure it’s Filling!
Sure, light snacks are the goal so you don’t overeat, but if the snack doesn’t quite fill you up, and keeps you reaching for more, it risks encouraging serious overeating, especially if you’re about to have a meal on top of that. Aim for something that makes you feel full, but is nutritious and low on the calorie counts. Fresh fruits (but not fruit juice!) and vegetables are great for this, as are protein rich greek yogurts (as opposed to less filling, often more sugar-filled yogurts), real cheese (never anything like over-processed American “cheese”), and whole-wheat toast, to name just a few ideas. Basically, a good snack should make you feel like you’re stuffed so you don’t reach for more afterward, without actually adding too many calories, fat, or sugar to your diet. Bonus points if it gives some necessary vitamins and minerals.