You’re two hours into your morning, and it happens — that hollow, roaring noise that turns heads and outcompetes the jarring noise a pin makes when it hits the floor and echoes. You are so embarrassed, but there is no turning back now.
Your stomach just growled or grumbled very loudly, and now everyone at work knows you are hungry. Unfortunately, it’s only 9 am–still hours away from lunch–and you don’t want to ruin your weight loss plan with a snack, so you decide to power through the morning with that hollow, gnawing feeling inside.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to skip snacks to maintain a well-balanced, healthy nutrition plan. Eating snacks can benefit your weight loss plan, as long as you choose healthy options and keep your portion sizes reasonable. When you plan out your healthy snacks correctly, they yield many benefits to your health and well-being.
Snacks supply your body with longer-lasting energy, fuel you with key nutrients, keep your hunger at bay, reduce overeating at mealtime, and keep your calorie count in control.
Able is here to show you how to snack the right way so that you can be kind to your body and sustain a holistic lifestyle with nurturing health and wellness practices. Feel better from now on and for good with our favorite heart-healthy snack options below.
A heart-healthy diet comprises many fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low or nonfat dairy, fiber, and good fats. With these options, you supply your body with sustainable fuel, including vitamins and minerals, to provide you with more consistent energy to get you through the day.
Look for snacks rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, especially potassium and calcium. These foods naturally target and help regulate blood pressure.
In addition to fiber, whole grains are a great way to help naturally lower your blood pressure and boost your heart health. Rather than buying refined grain products at the store, look for whole wheat flour or 100% whole wheat or grain bread. Moreover, choose cereals with at least five grams of fiber, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, or individual whole grains such as brown rice.
Finally, make sure that your diet involves plentiful “good” fats, including nuts, seeds, olive oil, canola oil, fatty fish like salmon or tuna, and avocados.
As an added boost, omega-3 is a particular type of good fat that helps target and lower high cholesterol levels. Make sure you incorporate some fatty fish for a good omega-3 supply; ground flaxseed is also high in omega-3 as well as fiber. Walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil are also great omega-3 sources.
General recommendations suggest you should limit added sugars, salts, and saturated and trans fats. Foods with these ingredients fill you with empty calories — in other words, they do not fill you up at all because they are high in calories but low in essential nutrients that would ordinarily keep you full.
Foods with these ingredients may also put you at a higher risk for heart disease due to tendencies to either raise blood pressure, raise harmful cholesterol levels, or both.
In general, this means that you should limit fried foods, canned foods high in sodium, processed foods (particularly fatty or processed meats), and frozen dinners. You should also limit soft drinks, salty chips, candy, baked goods, and foods made with white refined flour, whole-fat dairy products, coconut oil, or palm oil.
Notice how we say ‘limit,’ and not ‘avoid,’ though! Most people achieve well-balanced nutrition plans and healthy lifestyles through habit and behavior change, not restrictive dieting. As long as you live with the principle ‘everything in moderation’ always in mind, you will be able to maintain a successful healthy lifestyle while still allowing yourself to indulge in sweet treats once in a while.
Plan ahead to ensure that you always have a healthy snack supply readily available to consume. This is especially helpful if you have a busy or stressful week; planning ahead and having the right healthy ingredients on hand can make all the difference! It is so much easier to make a healthy choice when you have many healthy options at your fingertips.
In addition, make sure that you read nutrition labels in order to properly portion your snacks. Doing your nutrition label homework will help you avoid overeating and stay on track with your calorie budget. In general, you should choose snack options between 100 to 200 calories (try not to exceed 200 calories for a snack).
In addition to choosing snacks that are under 200 calories, try to choose snacks that also comprise no more than 10 grams of sugar, 140 mg of sodium, 15-30 grams of total carbohydrates, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 20 mg of cholesterol, and no trans fat. Look for healthy options with 2.5 + grams of fiber and 7+ grams of protein.
Nuts are a great choice for a heart-healthy snack as they comprise many nutritious ingredients that influence lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They are a nutritious and sustaining snack full of unsaturated fatty acids, omega-3s, protein, fiber, and vitamin E.
Some even add plant sterols to your diet, which can additionally help lower your cholesterol. Seeds are another great way to supply your body with “good,” unsaturated fats that are kind to your heart health.
There is a caveat, though: nuts are very high in calories, so you should be extra careful concerning your portion sizes. Fat comprises up to 80% of a nut’s content. Try to limit your snack to one handful of nuts or a couple of tablespoons of nut butter.
While nut butter and oils are great healthy snack additions, they do not have as much fiber as raw nuts.
Fruits and vegetables are a good way to pack in nutrients and fuel your body with sustaining energy. They have many vitamins and minerals, a generous amount of fiber, and, to top it all off, they are not high in calories.
Believe it or not, popcorn is a whole grain, so it’s a great way to be heart-healthy. Be careful, though! Your additives can turn popcorn into an unhealthy, fattening snack: try to avoid adding melted butter, and go very easy on the salty seasonings.
As an alternative to popcorn, try some roasted chickpeas. They are very flavorful and still bring a nice crunch to your snack if you are in the mood for something crunchy.
Raisins, dates, figs, apricots, mangos, pineapple — there are so many different dried fruit options. Just make sure you choose unsweetened!
Low-fat cheese or yogurt can be a delicious and filling snack. Just be mindful of the sugar in your yogurt, and opt for low-sugar choices or plain flavors. Top your yogurt with some berries and honey for added flavor.
Just make sure the rice cakes are unsalted and that the crackers you choose are whole-grain or whole-wheat based.
Try some sardines, a little bit of salmon, mackerel, or tuna fish to get your omega-3 boost in.
Make yourself a delicious fruit smoothie with 100% fruit juice, fresh or frozen fruit, low-fat yogurt or skim milk, and maybe a little bit of honey. You might even try to add some super greens like kale or spinach.
Alternatively, you can even go as simple as a frozen banana, blended smooth, to make your own single-ingredient banana ice cream that’s just as sweet as regular dairy ice creams and far healthier!
Rather than sugary cakes, cookies, or pastries, make yourself some homemade banana bread as a healthier alternative. Use whole wheat flour and unsweetened applesauce. You can even add some heart-healthy nuts for extra flavor, such as walnut or pecan bits. Top with a honey drizzle and sprinkle with cinnamon for a nice finishing touch.
Channel your inner creativity! Pair different fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins:
Healthy snacks are a great addition to a well-balanced diet and can enhance weight loss efforts when you plan them right. When you incorporate healthy snacking into your healthy lifestyle habits, you work towards a happier, healthier you.
With this heart-healthy snack guide, Able is here to help you feel like yourself again with achievable goals and visible results. Get your nutrition plan now to start making a change today.
Healthy Snacking | American Heart Association
10 quick and easy healthy snack ideas | BHF
Smart Snacking for Heart Health | UW Health
Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health | Mayo Clinic
Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease | Mayo Clinic