Do you go into most meals starving? Do you feel stuffed after meals? Do you find yourself craving sweets in the afternoon? Are you reaching for snacks out of habit or boredom? Do you avoid snacks to try and lose weight? If you said yes to any of the above, you may need a snack strategy.
With the right portion and right food choice, snacks can actually help you avoid overeating, resulting in weight loss and a more balanced day of eating overall.
A healthy snack choice can also add awesome nutrients to your diet. Pumpkin seeds are a nutrient bomb when it comes to snacks. They are an awesome source of plant protein, loaded with zinc, which is immune and metabolism boosting, and hormone balancing in men and women (1,2). Pumpkin seeds contain PCOS-fighting nutrients, which are also beneficial for prostate health. In addition, they are a source of magnesium, which can improve mood and sleep.
On the flip side, eating too much at snack time can lead to weight gain, ruin your appetite for mealtime (and we all know hunger is the best spice), and choosing high sugar or carb snacks can cause a blood sugar spike, which can lead to more cravings or more snacking.
Common snack times are usually 11am, 3pm and after dinner. Simply being aware of snack time can help you plan your healthy snacks instead of opening the cupboard, and going rogue (not recommended as this usually results in overeating chips from the bag while standing at the counter), but following some ground rules is a good idea too:
Reach for water first! Before you reach for any snack, drink a big glass of water first! Sometimes hunger is mistaken for thirst. If you’re still hungry 10 minutes later, you likely need some food, but now you’re also hydrated!
Reach for produce second! Think raw veggies like snap peas, cucumber, celery, radish slices, bell pepper or your favourite fruits like watermelon, apple slices, kiwi, pineapple, citrus, berries, etc. Depending on how hungry you are, these items can also be dipped in hummus or natural nut butters.
Have produce prepped, and let it take centre stage in the fridge. On your weekly prep day, wash, chop and place your produce eye level in the fridge. You’re WAAAAY more likely to reach for it if it’s ready to eat, and the first thing you see.
Cap your snacks at 200 calories maximum. The purpose of snacks is to bridge your hunger gap, not make you too full to eat a meal.
Sit and enjoy. Because your snack is small, make sure you put it on a plate, or in a bowl (never out of the bag!), sit, eat it slowly, and enjoy.
Close the kitchen at 8:30pm, or 12 hours before you eat your first bite of food in the morning. This sets boundaries for dangerous late night, mindless TV snacking, and allows your body to get a restful sleep instead of digesting food overnight. Cutting those late night calories can also result in weight loss! Think about it this way, even an extra 100 calories per day is: 700 calories per week, 36,400 calories per year and a gain of 10lbs per year. Worth it?
I would recommend planning your snacks on a weekly basis, and cycling through every 4 weeks. If your water and produce just don’t cut it, here are some healthy snack choices to have on hand (these are my personal faves of sweet, salty, savoury and crunchy snacks!):
Morning Snack: Half a No Sugar Keto Bar
Afternoon Snack: Green olives (3-4)
Evening Treat: Keto Nuggets (watch the portions on these babies - they’re SO good)
Morning Snack: Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds - simple recipe below! (you can also make it spicy if you prefer that flavour!)*
Afternoon Snack: Raw Veggies with Hummus Dipper
Evening Treat: Camino Dark Chocolate Squares with Almonds (at least 50% cacao)
Morning Snack: Apple Slices with cinnamon (cinnamon helps stabilize blood sugar!) or natural nut butter*
Afternoon Snack: Pistachios*
Evening Treat: One of my No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies
Morning Snack: Watermelon - love this fruit - the lycopene in watermelon acts as a natural sun protector (I would still use sunscreen, but it’s a bonus!). Also, it's hydrating, filling, and is only 45 calories for 1 cup!
Evening Treat: One No Sugar Keto Bomb
*Keep nuts & seeds to a ¼ cup, and nut butters to a golf ball size portion.
Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds Clusters
1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp. coconut oil or MCT oil
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
Heat oven to 300F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium-size glass bowl, whisk coconut oil (melt first if solid) and maple syrup together until combined. Whisk in the salt and cinnamon if using.
Pour in the pumpkin seeds and stir until pumpkin seeds are evenly coated with oil.
Spread evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes.
Allow seeds to cool completely on the baking sheet so they clump together in delicious clusters.
Once cool, store in a sealed glass container in the fridge.