Makayla McGeeney | Bigger than Biceps: The key to health snacking

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It's 3 p.m. and you just had lunch not too long ago, but it's also not time for dinner yet. It's the time for a snack, or a pick-me-up coffee. This mid-day slump calls for many things for many different types of eaters. Allow me to elaborate.

Some people only snack throughout the day, some only eat three big meals and some eat five times a day, all small portions. Snacks aren't something everyone needs, but it's important to know how and when to eat them. On Monday I had a donut after my lunch at about 2:30 p.m. and I didn't need caffeine until a few hours later. I counted on that sugar to get me through the rest of the day. This is usually the only time I suggest a sweet snack, because my body will use the carbohydrates and sugar for energy. If I had it after dinner and went to bed shortly after, there wouldn't be a chance to utilize it.

Don't think of snacking as good or bad, but as an addition to your diet, if you can fit it. It varies on an individual's lifestyle. If you're busy all the time, then keeping cheese sticks, clementines, rice cakes and protein bars in your bag can prevent from overeating or grabbing fast food. Growing up, my aunt made it a habit to bring snacks and a bottle of water whenever we left the house, and now I continue to do that, especially because I live on my own now and can't afford out as much as I'd like.

My aunt also competed in a bodybuilding competition one summer and her routine of eating every three to four hours rubbed off on me. Whenever my boyfriend asks me if I'm hungry, I think back to the last time I ate. Some people are different in that they only eat when they're hungry and this isn't ideal for a healthy diet. If you think about how much food, or calories, is consumed in three big meals, it amounts to five small meals throughout the day. I try to do that now, but generally don't make it to the fifth meal. Sometimes the fifth is wine.

Discover Good Nutrition has some reasons as to why, or why not, snacking can be beneficial to a diet. It can help reduce the day's overall calorie intake, maintain physical and mental energy (afternoon slump and blood sugar decrease), and help control portions at dinner. I'm speaking from a working person's point of view, so snacking in front of the television is something you don't want to get into the habit of doing, especially after dinner. Try to cut off consumption about an hour or two before bed, so that you have an easier time getting and staying asleep.

Unhealthy snack options occasionally happen when you're not actually hungry and craving something sweet or high in carbs. When you fulfill that craving, you find that you're still hungry a short while later, this is because you didn't satisfy your body's hunger with the proper nutrients and it's still waiting for it. If you have a sweet tooth like I do and don't want to risk the calories, get flavored gum or mints and keep it in your bag or on your desk. It also helps to chew on a toothpick or dental pick just to have something in your mouth. Flavored, sugar free water drops or seltzer water helps too.

Some of my favorite go-to snacks:

• Dannon Light & Fit Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Jif peanut butter whip, all natural granola and fruit.

• Quaker apple rice cakes with almond butter, or powdered peanut butter and sliced bananas topped with honey.

• Snap pea crisps with hummus

• Grapefruit.

• Pepper jack cheese stick with two clementines.

• Cottage cheese (I get it with chive) paired with fruit or black beans. You can put this on rice cakes or rice thins.

• Protein shake with almond milk and an apple.

• Hard boiled egg on fresh tomato slices

• Turkey deli meat on cucumber slices

• Raw veggies such as carrots, bell pepper, or cherry tomatoes with a handful of nuts; almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans or soy nuts.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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