All About Healthy Snacking: Why It’s Important, How to Do It, and Snack Ideas

July 31, 2009

Healthy snacking is an integral part of a healthy diet. Find out why it’s important, how to do it, and get some healthy snack ideas to get started!

Healthy snacking is an integral part of a healthy diet. Find out why it's important, how to do it, and get some healthy snack ideas to get started @jlevinsonrd.

People are often surprised when I tell them that snacking is a very important part of a healthy, balanced diet. They think if they snack they will take in extra calories and gain weight.

While that could be the case if your snacks are too high in calories or if you’re snacking too often, healthy snacking certainly has its place and is an important bridge to get from one meal to the next. This is especially true between lunch and dinner, which tends to be the longest span between meals.

Why Healthy Snacking Is Important

Healthy snacking helps keep your blood sugar levels stable, keeps you satiated throughout the day, thereby reducing cravings for less healthy foods, and helps you avoid overeating at the next meal. If you wait too long between meals and don’t snack in between, you will be ravenous by the time you sit down to lunch or dinner and eat more than you really need to be adequately satisfied. Of course you won’t realize this until about 20 to 30 minutes after you’re done eating, at which point you’ll feel stuffed to the gills.

The key to healthy snacking is making sure you combine carbohydrates, protein, and fat to ensure your blood sugar levels don’t spike and crash. If you eat carbohydrates like fruit or crackers by themselves, your body will quickly break down the carbs to sugar, which will make your blood sugar rise, give you a short-lived burst of energy, followed by a dip in blood sugar, which will leave you lethargic and hungry again.

Pairing carbs with a source of protein and/or fat (or a food that has both), like nuts, cheese, or sliced turkey, will help slow the breakdown of carbs, which in turn will lead to a slower, steadier rise and fall in blood sugar. The end result: you have more energy, and remain fuller for longer.

Ricotta Berry Oatmeal Cups are a delicious snack and a good source of protein, fiber, and calcium.

Healthy Snacking Tips

Of course choosing the right snack and making sure your snack doesn’t turn into a meal is easier said than done, so here are some tips:

  1. Portion it out. Don’t eat straight from a bag or box. Put a portion on a plate or in a bowl and put the rest of the package away so you’re not tempted to go back for more.
  2. Get rid of distractions. Instead of standing at the kitchen counter mindlessly eating while you’re reading the newspaper, sit down and focus only on your food — you’ll register what you’re eating more than if your mind is elsewhere.
  3. Differentiate between snacks and treats. A midday snack is something that will give you energy and provide you with nutrients, like fruit and nuts. A treat is something more indulgent that you wouldn’t necessarily have on a daily basis, like a piece of birthday cake or a cookie.
  4. Choose wisely. Snacks are not meant to replace meals, so you need to be mindful of how much you’re having. For the most part your snacks should range from 150-200 calories, depending on your calorie needs for the day.

Dark chocolate, creamy greek yogurt, and sweet strawberries are the perfect combination in this frosty heart healthy Dark Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie!

Healthy Snack Ideas

  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Whole grain crackers with string cheese or a slice of cheese
  • Baby carrots, bell pepper slices, or cucumber sticks dipped in hummus
  • Part-skim string cheese with a piece of fruit
  • Trail mix (any combo of nuts, seeds, popcorn, and/or dried fruit)
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Ricotta Berry Oatmeal Cups
  • Pear with a handful of almonds or pistachios
  • Plain popcorn (like Skinny Pop or Angie’s Sea Salt Boomchickapop) topped with seasoning of choice – I like grated parmesan or nutritional yeast and a mix of herbs and spices
  • Roasted chickpeas with a piece of fruit
  • Cottage cheese fruit parfait
  • Smoothie made with fruit and low-fat kefir or yogurt

For more ideas to help you get in the healthy snacking habit, check out my 5 Snacks for a Balanced Break or my friend Sara’s 20 Snacks Around 200 Calories. You may also want to find out what kind of snacker you are – once you know, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions on what to actually snack on to curb those cravings!

Are you a snacker?

What’s your favorite healthy snack to get through the day?

Share with me in the comments below!

Healthy snacking is an integral part of a healthy diet. Find out why it's important, how to do it, and get some healthy snack ideas to get started @jlevinsonrd.

This post was updated January 2017

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  1. Another great post! I can do some serious damage, standing at the kitchen counter eating snacks straight out of the bag so tips 1 & 2 really hit home. As for for your snack ideas, I think I’ll try that first one with green apples and no peanut butter- LOL!

    1. Thanks Sonali! Oh, yes, we all can do serious damage eating out of the bag! So glad those tips resonate. Are you telling me you don’t like peanut butter?!

  2. So much helpful information here! Love your tips and healthy snack ideas! Keeping the tips in mind when planning for snacks is key. Especially when life is crazy busy and you need healthy snacks at the ready!

  3. Honestly, if I weren’t married (and before I was married many moons ago) I would have entire days of no meals, just snacking. I love mini-meals. I feel so much more satisfied noshing throughout the day than sitting down to a “meal”. It may be my smaller stature just not jiving with dinner portions, but I LOVE posts like these that focus on healthy ways to enjoy bites 🙂

  4. Great tips! I usually reach for a handful of nuts during that afternoon slump. Sometimes I’ll throw some dairy free mini chocolate chips in the mix.

  5. During the summer months especially we are pretty much mini meals and snackers. During the school year it is harder otherwise we would probably do it year round. My girls and I could just snack all day and usually healthy grabbing fruit and veggies here and there. They always come home from school with a lot of their lunch and if they do eat they only eat a little for dinner and then are hungry later before bed. It’s really hard especially on soccer and gymnastics nights as they don’t want to eat a lot before and will be hungry after. When eating big meals they are like me and feel icky and full and often don’t eat all their dinner and are hungry later but will grab a fruit or veggie.

    1. It’s so interesting how different families and people have different needs when it comes to food intake. I find that my kids are obsessed with snacks because of peer influence and if I give into it they won’t eat their actual meal for lunch or dinner. If we do have snacks I try to keep it small. Maybe as they become more active that will change. It’s always an evolution with the kids!!

  6. I am most definitely a snacker!! I love all of they healthy snack ideas you’ve shared, a smoothie is my favorite snack to get in those texts fruits and veggies ????

    1. So glad you like them Emily. Thank you! Smoothies are definitely a great way to get a bunch of fruits and veggies in at once!