Best Snacks To Hit Your Fitness Goals
Are you a victim of “Snacks Gone Wild” Syndrome? Kick those bad habits and get your nutrition back in line.
In this article, Coach Dom offers his “snacking guidelines” as well as a list of the best snacks to boost nutrition and help you hit your fitness goals.
I love hummus.
Correction: Chubby Dom loves half a container of hummus with tortilla chips. Once, Healthy Dom attempted to persuade Chubby Dom to try it with sliced red peppers and cucumbers. Chubby Dom obliged and then karate chopped Healthy Dom in the throat.
The two reconciled and decided that, while hummus can be a healthy snack for some, it wasn’t the best choice for them.
Does this situation sound familiar?
All too often, we use snacking as an excuse to indulge our worst cravings between otherwise healthy meals. Or we simply get hangry and settle for the first thing we can find (usually something loaded with sugar or fried beyond recognition). I call this “Snacks Gone Wild” Syndrome.
But the best snacks should be used to further yourself along in your fitness journey. In this article, I’ll give you my healthy snacking guidelines and a list of the best snacks to help—not hinder—your fitness journey.
Healthy Snacking Guidelines
Eating small, frequent meals can be a great approach to nutrition, but I’ve seen a lot of people mess it up with snacking. They do well with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but make bad snack choices that completely undo their good meal choices.
Snacks should be looked at as energy management, nothing more. They are something to help you sustain energy or “hold you over” until your next main meal.
They should also be prepped and planned for with as much care as you prep and plan your three square meals a day. When coming up with new healthy snack ideas, I like to focus on fruit, fat, and protein.
Fruit is the ultimate fast food.
It’s a great snack because it’s portable, convenient, high in fiber, and loaded with nutrients. Some nutrition “experts” may try to scare you away from too much fruit because of its high sugar content, but this is natural sugar. Not the kind that’ll have you falling asleep at your desk after 30 minutes.
What?! I thought fat was the enemy!
Surprise! Yes, too much fat is never a good thing but that’s the case with just about everything. Healthy fats consumed in moderation are not only “not bad,” they can help you in your fitness journey.
Fat is essential to keeping our cells working so we can walk, work, exercise, and do the things we enjoy. Fat also provides satiety, meaning it’ll leave you full so you don’t consume every snack in the fridge.
I find that most people don’t eat enough protein for their fitness goals.
Protein is food for your muscles. It digests slowly and will keep you full longer. Combined with a healthy source of fat, protein is basically the perfect snack. Look for 5-15 grams of protein in a serving.
Before eating a snack, compare it to this checklist to see how it measures up.
- Can I identify a fruit or vegetable?
- Can I identify a fat source?
- Can I identify a protein source?
- Is the snack around 200 calories or less?
Those 100-calorie snack packs of fat-free cookies are never the best choice.
Common Snacking Mistakes
As Americans have gotten busier, the snack food industry has gotten bigger. And more snacking has only led to more snacking mistakes.
Here are some of the most common mistakes I see people make when it comes to snacking and snack food. Be aware of your own pitfalls and weaknesses so you don’t get tripped up on your way to the finish line.
Mistake #1: Mindless Snacking
If you asked me to pick the most common snacking mistake, it’d be this one.
Many people graze on food throughout the day: grabbing a handful of M&Ms here or a cookie there. Because they overindulged between meals, they aren’t hungry at mealtimes, so they don’t eat enough nutritious food. They may even be confused about why they haven’t lost any weight despite hardly eating anything for lunch and dinner, forgetting about all those snacks they inhaled throughout the day.
If this sounds like you, take some time to identify areas of temptation in your home or office, like candy dishes or party platters. Make a conscious effort to pack healthy snacks you can eat at your desk so you aren’t tempted to hit the vending machine.
Mistake #2: Too Much Of a Good Thing
Hummus, dark chocolate, trail mix, protein bars, nut butters and the wildly popular no-bake energy balls can help you succeed at fat loss and healthy living. But they can also be your diet demise.
The building blocks of fat, fruit, and protein that make up the best snacks are only healthy if you eat them in moderation. Eating a couple tablespoons of hummus with carrots or bell peppers is fine. Chubby Dom’s habit of downing half a container of it is not.
Snacks, even healthy snacks, should be consumed in moderation. Eat enough to tide you over until the next meal, but there’s no reason to go overboard.
Mistake #3: Ignoring Hunger
The key to moderation is not eating too much…or too little.
A lot of people tend to forget about snacks until they’re suddenly starving and there’s still two more hours until their next meal. (Then scarf down a sleeve of cookie dough.) Others will let their stomachs growl all afternoon because they “can’t afford the calories.”
Hunger is your body’s way of telling you that it needs more fuel. It’s fine to feel hungry sometimes. But if you find yourself consistently hungry between meals, add some “snack prep” into your meal prepping habits and see if your energy levels don’t improve.
Mistake #4: Making Snacks a Habit
Your fitness journey is built on habits, and snacking is no different.
And, while it’s important not to make bad snacks a habit, that’s not what I mean here. The act of snacking shouldn’t become a habit, either.
If you have plenty of energy and aren’t hungry, don’t force feed yourself a snack just because you brought it to work or it’s “about that time.”
Best Snacks For Nutrition
In many ways, the snack food industry is to blame for our nation’s obesity problem. People think they need to buy bars and 100-calorie snacks touting “none of this, none of that, organic Vietnamese rice flour, high fiber, whole grain goodness.” But the majority of these products are just glorified junk food.
Instead, here are my favorite healthy snack ideas you can keep in mind when packing your lunch or doing the grocery shopping.
- String cheese + clementine/tangerine
- Natural peanut butter + celery stalk or medium apple
- 1 oz. cashews + a medium pear
- 1 scoop whey protein powder blended with water
- Kiwi + pistachios
- Sliced red bell peppers + 2 T hummus or baba ganoush (Just don’t be like Chubby Dom)
- ½ cup cottage cheese + blueberries
- 3 pieces of sliced turkey + avocado
- Beef jerky
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- Greek yogurt + sliced banana
Remember, it’s important to eat healthy snacks, but it won’t do you any good if you’re choking down something you hate. The best snacks are not only healthy, they’re foods that you enjoy and look forward to eating.
Eating the right snacks is just as important to your fitness goals as doing the right workouts. In fact, some of the most common snacking mistakes are enough to completely derail otherwise healthy eating habits.
Identify your biggest snacking weaknesses and make a conscious effort to replace bad habits with healthier choices, not junk food. Include protein, fat, and a vegetable or fruit in every snack and use snacking as a tool to keep hunger at bay.
Snack wisely and keep moving,