• By Talia Follador
  • In Uncategorized
  • May 19, 2020

Dietitian’s Snacking Tips During COVID-19

By Talia Follador, RDN, LDN

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in many ways. An impact that I’ve noticed all over social media is increased snacking due to boredom, stress, and/or being stuck at home. 

If your snacking (and overall eating) habits have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. Read on to learn the benefits of eating snacks and recommendations to optimize your snacks.  

Functions of Snacks

Eating snacks bodes many benefits. Snacks help to regulate hunger, energy, and blood sugar, and making a homemade snack can also serve as an opportunity for social connection. Not to mention, eating snacks can help us meet our daily needs for nutrients including protein, vitamins, and minerals, which can support a healthy immune system. 

Hunger Regulation

Eating every 3-5 hours can help to regulate hunger, which in turn can prevent you from over-eating. If you eat three meals per day, eating snacks in between can assure you are eating every 3-5 hours and thus keep your hunger in check. 

Energy Regulation

Calories are, after all, energy. Eating calories throughout the day provides your body with the energy you need to do things such as work, care for your family, exercise, cook, and clean, as well as vital body functions like breathing and keeping your heart beating. 

Blood Sugar Regulation

Glucose (aka blood sugar) is your body’s preferred energy source. Your body has processes in place to regulate your blood sugar, and you can help it out by eating carbohydrates throughout the day balanced with protein and fats. Keeping your blood sugar in an optimal range can help curb hunger and cravings, regulate your energy, and improve your focus.

Stress, Emotions, and Social Connection

Reaching for a snack due to boredom, stress, and/or emotions is a completely normal human experience and can be beneficial in times of stress. Assuring you are eating adequate calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals supports your immune system. As mentioned above, eating snacks in between meals can keep your hunger and blood sugar in check, which can help regulate stress and emotions. Enjoying favorite snack foods that are associated with happy memories can provide comfort. Taking a break from work/school during the day to make a snack with family or friends can provide an opportunity to connect and create memories. 

When eating snacks, check-in with yourself to understand your motivation. If you’re truly hungry, it’s a go! If you are feeling sad, stressed, angry, or lonely and are reaching for food for comfort, eating may provide only a temporary distraction. What are you actually craving? Perhaps a phone call with a close friend or family member, a leisurely walk to clear your head, or a short session of meditation or prayer will serve you better. If you still eat a snack in this case, remember that it is not a reflection of your morality — it is simply a snack! 

Whatever your motivation, keep reading to find out how to optimize your snacks to fuel your body best.

Optimize Your Snacking

At every snack, try to include a carbohydrate source along with either a protein or a fat source. If you can get all three, all the better! All of these macronutrients play important roles in the body, and eating at least two of them at every snack can help you feel more satisfied. 

  • Carbohydrate sources: grains (bread, pasta, rice, cereal), fruit, vegetables, beans, milk, and yogurt.
  • Protein sources: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts/nut butters, yogurt, cheese, and soy. 
  • Fat sources: nuts/nut butters, cheese, yogurt or milk, fish, avocados, and olive oil. 

Dietitian’s Snack Suggestions

Below are simple snack suggestions. Get creative and make them your own!

Yogurt 

Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is a great source of protein as well as calcium and vitamin D. Mix in some cinnamon, and pair with your favorite fruit for extra sweetness. Top with whole-grain cereal for fiber and crunch and/or peanut or almond butter for a healthy fat source that will keep your satiated longer. 

 

Pretzels or Veggies 

Pair pretzels or veggies (carrots, celery, sliced bell peppers, sliced cucumbers) with hummus, cheese, or nut butter for a crunchy snack.

Popcorn

Popcorn is high in fiber, and one serving (3 cups) goes a long way. I prefer to purchase popcorn kernels and make popcorn myself. I put ¼ cup in a brown paper bag, fold the top down, and put in the microwave for two minutes. Consider enjoying with almonds, cashews, or peanuts or adding to a trail mix to keep you full longer.

Fruit

Pair fruit with protein, like Greek yogurt or peanut butter, to help you stay satiated longer. Fresh fruit is always great to have around, but don’t forget about frozen, canned, and dried fruits! Some of my favorite snacks are canned mandarin oranges with Greek yogurt, dried apricots stuffed with almond butter, and frozen mango or bananas as a refreshing dessert. 

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is simple, delicious, and packs a nutritional punch; it is high in antioxidants called flavonoids, which are good for your heart and brain health. Additionally, dark chocolate is lower in added sugar and is often a good source of iron (some brands can have up to 15% the daily value of iron). Add dark chocolate to a trail mix, a yogurt parfait, or popcorn for extra sweetness. 

Trail Mix

Make your own trail mix using a combination of dried fruits, nuts, cereal, and/or salty/crunchy treats like pretzels or popcorn. The combination of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber will help keep you satiated for hours. 

Avocado Faces

I made these as an activity when I worked as a supermarket dietitian. It was a big hit with kids! I used sandwich thins covered with guacamole as the base topped with blueberries for the eyes, carrots for the nose, and cherry tomatoes for the mouth. 

Ants on a Log

The original DIY snack! Celery topped with peanut butter and raisins with thin pretzel rods as the antenna.

 

 

Apple Butterflies

Two of my favorite fruits come together to make these cute “butterflies.” Thinly slice an apple. Place the curved sides of two apple slices together. Spread a small dollop of peanut butter where the apple slices touch, and top the peanut butter with blueberries.

 

 

The Choice is Yours

Snacks are important for energy, hunger, and blood sugar regulation. You can get the most bang for your buck by pairing a carbohydrate source with a protein and/or fat source. Tailor your snacks to your preferences; the choice is yours whether you reach for something salty, sweet, homemade, or store-bought. Whatever you choose, enjoy your snacks down to every last bite!

 

Talia Follador, RDN, LDN is a Philadelphia-based dialysis dietitian and health and nutrition freelance writer. She shares recipes, intuitive and mindful eating tips, and her love for food and nutrition on her blog, Instagram, and Twitter pages.