Healthy Lifestyle

Want to Snack Healthy? Focus on Nutritious Options and Mindful Eating

Published: March 6, 2020

Here’s a fact that won’t surprise you: We are a society that likes to snack.

Data show that the number of snacks we consume and their contribution to our overall energy have steadily increased since the 1970s.

But we also seem undecided on whether snacking is good or bad.

The ubiquity of energy-dense snacks in stores, vending machines and elsewhere may have us believing that snacking is unhealthy. Further, diets that encourage restriction often promote abstinence from snacking.

So, is snacking between meals a healthy habit? 


What is a healthy snack?

Research suggests that having healthful snacks promotes satiety and appetite control. Whole foods high in protein, fiber and whole grains (e.g., nuts, yogurt, prunes and popcorn) enhance satiety when consumed as snacks. Other foods that are processed to include protein, fiber or complex carbohydrates might also facilitate satiety when eaten as snacks. 

Children can also benefit from snacking in between regular meals. One study showed that serving fruits and vegetables as snacks improves diet quality among children and potentially reduces snacking on foods high in added sugars and solid fats. 

It’s important to consider the quality of the foods you snack on. Snacks can provide energy for the day, especially when pairing protein (such as a nut butter) with fiber or whole grains (like an apple or a slice of whole-grain bread).

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that snacks for less active adults or teens be 200 calories or less, while snacks for more active adults or teens would be 200-300 calories. For kids, it’s recommended to snack two to three times daily, at least one hour before a meal. 


Ways to snack smart

Tips for healthy snacking:

  • Plan and portion out your snacks ahead of time
  • Carry a snack with you when you’re out and about
  • Focus on foods high in protein, fiber and whole grains, such as nuts, yogurt, popcorn, fruits and vegetables
  • Be mindful of your hunger cues, and eat snacks when you’re hungry in between regular meals
  • Eat your snacks without distractions, such as TVs or phones


Part of a healthy lifestyle

So go ahead. Have a snack. Just remember how it plays into the bigger picture that is your health. 

If you need more guidance on following a healthy diet, talk to your primary care provider or explore Methodist’s nutrition and weight management services.

More resources

About the Author

Teresa Garvin, PhD, MS, RDN, LMNT, LD, is the chief clinical dietitian at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital.

“I’m inspired each day by my patients,” she said. “Their choices to improve their diets and eating habits have a direct impact on their health.”

See more articles from Teresa Garvin, PhD, MS, RDN, LMNT, LD
Photo of Teresa Garvin, PhD, MS, RDN, LMNT, LD