If late afternoon hunger pangs leave you longing for a snack, there’s no reason to deny yourself. Just be sure to choose foods that fit into a heart-healthy eating pattern.
Snacks help bridge the gap between meals. A small snack in the afternoon curbs your appetite so you’re not completely starving when you sit down to dinner.
That can help you control your portion sizes and avoid overeating—a common cause of weight gain.
If you eat lunch at noon and are planning to meet a friend for dinner at 7 or 8 p.m., you can have a snack between 4 and 5 p.m.
When choosing snacks, select whole foods with little processing, and look for the healthiest sources of fats, carbs, and protein.
For example, plain Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen berries and granola, trail mix with dried cherries, dark chocolate, and walnuts, hummus with fresh vegetables, whole-grain flatbread with almond butter and fruit spread.
Smarter snack choices
Most health-conscious people steer clear of junk food like salty, greasy chips. But they might not realize that low-fat, low-salt potato chips or pretzels aren’t really a great substitute.
Those types of snacks usually don’t satisfy your hunger because they contain just simple carbohydrates.
Low-fiber, easily digested carbs found in refined grains tend to raise your blood sugar, which can leave you hungry again in a few hours.
The most healthful snacks contain a combination of healthy proteins, carbs, and fats. Think whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese or peanut butter.
A small serving of leftovers—like stir-fried vegetables, tuna salad, or soup—also makes a good snack.
Make your own
If you crave something crunchy, popcorn can be a good choice, provided you avoid prepackaged popcorn in bags or microwave popcorn, which often contains lots of salt and unhealthy fats.
It’s easy and far cheaper to make your own. Just toss a small handful of popcorn kernels into a small paper bag, fold over the top, and place in the microwave.
Use the “popcorn” setting if your microwave has one, or cook on high for two to three minutes, or until the popping slows to a few seconds between pops. (Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t scorch or burn.)
Instead of butter, you can spray the cooked kernels with a little olive oil, using an oil mister. You can also sprinkle on herbs, spices, or a little grated Parmesan cheese.
If you have a sweet tooth, savor your favorite treat in moderation—like a small square of dark chocolate. If you love ice cream, have a kid-size cone once in a while as a treat.