Building Healthy Snacks...

By Cristin Dillon, SELF magazine

Snacks can be a make-it or break-it point in many people's weight loss plans so don't take them lightly--plan them, build them and enjoy them using some of these simple tips!

Snacks should generally be thought of as small meals. If you take out something for a snack, you should ask yourself if you would eat that for a meal. For example, if you grab a bag of chips and a soda for an afternoon snack, ask yourself: Would you ever serve chips and soda for dinner?! The same goes for chocolate, animal crackers, coffee, muffins, pastries, candy and doughnuts.

Snacks have a very important role in our diet because they bridge us between meals. Ideally you should not go longer than 4 hours or so without eating because at that point your body has to start working hard to keep your brain fueled and this can cause you to feel tired and distracted. Snacks put a little gas in the tank so that you can run efficiently until your next meal.

Snacks should generally be around 150-200 calories if you are eating an 1,800-2,000 calorie diet. If you need 2,200-2,400 calories, you should eat two snacks a day, each around 150-200 calories.

Snacks, like meals, should be built with a combination of fiber and protein foods so that they digest slowly and provide you with energy over a couple of hours time. You don't have a ton of calories to work with when planning snacks so ideally there should be two food groups and the portion size from each should be small.

The #1 rule with snacks is to avoid simple sugars. If you take in 100+ calories of refined grains or other simple sugars you are setting yourself up for a snacking binge. Simple sugars don't keep you feeling full, in fact they'll make you feel hungry again shortly after you eat them because you have sent your blood sugar and insulin into a rollercoaster race-- straight up, then plummeting down! This means no soda, no juice, no cookies or fiberless grains. The only exception is if you eat a small portion of refined grains with a hefty portion of protein to blunt the response.

Here are some of the best two-food snack combos - Enjoy!

* Baby Carrots and Hummus
* Reduced Fat Cheese Stick and Kashi Crackers
* Almonds, Raisins and Cheerios
* Greek Yogurt and Granola
* Nonfat Latte and Kashi Granola Bar
* 1% Cottage Cheese and Fresh Fruit
* Deli Turkey & Cheese with Avocado Roll-ups
* Cereal & Milk
* Edamame & Popcorn

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