Mindless snacking can throw your diet into a tailspin. Mindful snacking, on the other hand, can curb hunger cravings, fill in any nutritional gaps, and work to your advantage when the goal is to stay lean, muscular, and powerful. The key is to know which foods to snack on, and when. As for how much, that depends on your fitness or athletic goals.
Typically, a guideline to go by is to structure your diet is as follows: to lose fat, look to consume 10-12 calories per pounds of bodyweight; to put on muscle, aim to consume 14-18 calories per pound of bodyweight. How each meal is comprised depends on your genetics and metabolism, but, again, a guideline is to keep healthy fats at .4 grams per pound, protein at 1-1.5 grams per pound, and carbs and 1-2 per pound (1 if you’re looking to shed weight).
Step one is to prepare yourself. Anticipate your schedule to fluctuate, so when you’re in a rush you don’t just wolf down a bag of pretzels and think it’s helping your diet. A better option would be a to keep an apple and peanut butter or some hard-boiled eggs on hand, both of which contain protein. Not only does protein help rebuild muscle tissue, it’s also satiating, which helps you feel fuller for longer.
As for snacks, here are a few key foods that can help keep your munchies healthy:
Nuts like pistachios, almonds, and walnuts have ample amounts of protein, healthy fats, and lots of fiber. An added bonus to pistachios: a study conducted by Eastern Illinois U found that the added time it takes to get the shell off of the nut caused people to eat less.
Chia, pumpkin, hemp, and sesame seeds are all fantastic snacks. Chia seeds contain 11 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per ounce; pumpkin seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids and can help manage cholesterol; hemp seeds contain 10 grams of protein per ounce; sesame seeds are high in fiber, magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
Cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, green cabbage, peppers, broccoli — these veggies are all made up of more than 90% water. Along with health beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants, they’ll also help you feel full. One particularly versatile option is celery, which is a low-cal veggie that’s made up 95% water, and ripe for adding almond, sunflower, or peanut butter for a protein boost.
While fruit contains antioxidants and phytochemicals, snacking on it too often can get you into trouble if you’re not careful. While fruit is fibrous and typically low glycemic (aka slow digesting) — it won’t cause an insulin spike — the fructose can lead to a greater insulin release and lead to more body fat storage. That being said, a single serving of whole fruit (compared to the juice) won’t do you much harm. Compare OJ to an orange: eight ounces of the juice has 25 grams of carbs and little to no fiber; the fruit has 14 grams of carbohydrates and three grams of fiber.
(Side note: While fruit is a solid pre-workout option, so is P4’s Pre Game Formula and Energy Formula. Each product is NSF Certified for Sport and was engineered with ingredients to help provide a lasting energy rush that’ll propel you through even the toughest training routine.)
In closing, it’s important to remember not to be so tough on yourself. Most of us aren’t good when living in 100/100 — when we are totally committed to something until we slip, and then we’re totally not. If you give into a craving, don’t beat yourself up. It happened, and odds are, unless you continue the trend, it won’t be that detrimental. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to work.