Feel like you need a little “something” in between meals? Congratulations, you’ve just been presented with a great opportunity to add a healthy snack to your daily nutritional palette. More than an afterthought, regular snacks are an essential part of a smart eating strategy. The Institute of Medicine recommends that when you’re pregnant, you eat three meals and two snacks daily to help meet the increased nutrient needs during pregnancy. Snacking also helps minimize nausea while providing a much-needed mental break as well. Well-chosen, nutrient-rich foods keep your metabolism on an even keel throughout the day and help ensure that you don’t get too hungry, tired, or downright cranky before your next regular meal. As always, the key is to prioritize choices that include the fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains that your body needs.
But how you snack is almost as important as what you snack on. Eating on the run or while distracted doesn’t really allow you to slow down, give your attention to the food that sustains you, or savor the moment. Taking an occasional time-out from keeping all those balls in the air is good for you!
Relaxing Isn’t Just for the Weekend
We’ve all been there. Some days you feel like you’re rushing from your morning routine to school drop-offs, work meetings, and afternoon errands faster than you can say “snack attack.” Hunger strikes, and you either grab something fast from the vending machine or ignore those pangs until you can’t resist the urge to binge on whatever is hanging out in the recesses of your pantry. But even on our busiest of busy days, the “I’m not going to stop till I get everything done” approach is actually counterproductive.
And if you’re a new mom, setting aside time for a snack break provides structure to your daily eating plan, even when schedules are erratic. Naptime can provide the perfect opportunity for mothers to refuel with a quiet, uninterrupted snack.
First, too much stress can lead to a pattern of making impulsive and unhealthy nutritional choices, like regularly drinking a sugar-loaded soda when you need a pick-me-up. Second, carving out 10 to 15 minutes of quality time for a proper break (and snack) allows your mind to clear and your body to reenergize healthfully so that you’ll be able to take on the rest of your to-do list with gusto.
Food Is Meant to Be Enjoyed
Uninterrupted snack breaks also enable you to make your relationship with food a priority. Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but when you try to eat while multi-tasking, it becomes an automatic action rather than a mindful one. When you are able to focus, you can better enjoy the taste and texture of your snack, and appreciate the feeling of satisfaction it gives you. And while you are in a “healthy eating” state of mind, take a moment to think ahead a bit so you are not left scrambling when hunger strikes again. Got an idea for dinner or for those mini-breaks you are going to take this week? Make your grocery list or consider some new recipes you’d like to try. This is much more fun than snacking while rushing to your next appointment.
So turn off your phone and resist the urge to check your email, or Facebook, or your Twitter feed. Pick up some yogurt, a piece of fruit, or a lovely LemonZest® LUNA bar. Go outside. Feel the sun on your face. Breathe. There . . . doesn’t that feel better?
Tara Dellolocano Theis is a Nutrition Strategist at LUNA