The average American eats 2.2 snacks per day and gets one-quarter of his total calories from snacks, according to the USDA. Snacks can have a big impact on your health because they make up such a large portion of your diet. Snacking on junk food can lead to weight gain and other health problems, but healthy snacks can be beneficial.
Increase Nutrient Intake
Snacks provide an opportunity to improve the quality of your diet. Nutrient-dense foods help you meet recommended intake levels of nutrients and food group servings. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services states that the average American eats less than 60 percent of the suggested amount of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and seafood. You can work toward achieving these goals with snacks such as tuna on whole-grain crackers, fresh fruit with oatmeal and cut vegetables with yogurt.
Sustain Energy Levels
After you eat a meal or snack, your blood sugar levels rise and then decrease. You can start to feel tired if your blood sugar levels get too low. Snacks can prevent your blood sugar levels from dropping too much between meals. While sugary snacks can lead to sugar highs and subsequent energy crashes, healthy snacks promote more sustained blood sugar levels and energy. High-fiber, high-protein snacks, such as carrots with bean dip, are slow to digest so your blood sugar levels do not fluctuate much.
Recovery from Exercise
Healthy snacks after exercising can replace your energy stores and speed up muscle recovery. A healthy snack for post-workout recovery includes some carbohydrates and a small amount of protein, according to Iowa State University Extension. Eating your carbohydrates and protein within 15 to 30 minutes of finishing your exercise session will promote the best results. Snacks that support recovery and provide essential nutrients include yogurt with a banana and peanut butter on toast.
Healthy snacks can help you avoid eating less healthy foods. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests planning ahead by preparing healthy snacks so they’re readily available when hunger strikes. This strategy prevents you from getting too hungry with junk foods as your only option. Whole fruit, cut vegetables, cottage cheese and whole-grain pretzels are examples of easy snacks to have on hand. Even healthy snacks can lead to weight gain if you eat too much of them, so monitoring your portions should become a habit when you serve yourself snacks.