To get the most nutritional benefits from snacks, take a look at your eating habits and see if there are any shortfalls.|
You can make up for these in snacks, says Mary Ellen Camire, professor of food science and nutrition, University of Maine.
She asks, "What do I have trouble getting into my diet normally? Is it whole grains, more fruit, more fiber?"
For example, dairy intake is a concern for Camire, so she brings yogurt for a morning snack and string cheese for the afternoon at work.
Nutritious snacks also can help you overcome mid-day slumps. Include protein-rich foods in your snacks, which have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar.
Options that contain protein include yogurt, string cheese or a small amount of nuts. Try to keep snacks to 200 calories or less.
If you prefer the convenience of store-bought snacks, health experts recommend choosing granola bars that aren't chocolate-coated; dried fruits that aren't heavily sweetened; or hummus with pre-cut vegetables.
Measure your snacks into individual portions in small sandwich bags for work, and don't let marketing gimmicks entice you into choosing snacks that don't offer nutritional value.
Take 100-calorie packs, for instance, says Mark McKinney, senior executive chef, The University of Tennessee Medical Center.
"I think people get this idea that it's only 100 calories, but 100 calories of what?"
Put your 100 calories to nutritious foods, such as a slice of reduced-fat cheese, a small carton of plain fat-free yogurt or a piece of fruit, not a handful of candy.
Liquid snacks can be a problem as well, such as "big, fancy coffees (and) smoothies. You're investing a lot of calories," Camire says.
To quench your thirst, try water and a slice of lemon.
McKinney, who is part of a team that provides healthful cooking classes at the medical center, says you can control the calories in smoothies if you make your own with yogurt and fresh fruit.