According to recent research, snacking has really increased over the past 30 years [source]. Around 50% of all eating occasions in the U.S. are snacks [source], which accounts for about one-third of all adult calorie consumption. That’s a lot of snacks!
What constitutes a “good” snack is really up to you, but a definition I like to work with is a small amount of food eaten between meals. It should bridge the gap between full meals, fuel activities, and provide small bursts of energy.
Snacks to Boost Your Energy Metabolism
Produce + Protein
When people ask me about healthy snacking, I always say a great goal to have in mind is produce + protein or healthy fats. The combination of produce and protein or fat tends to be satiating since the food will move through your digestive system at a moderate pace while keeping blood sugar levels stable.
Research studies have shown that protein, fiber, and whole grains are the most filling snack foods [source]. Healthy fats can be a balancing energy source; for example, almonds were shown in one study to regulate blood sugar levels later [source].
Reaching for a sugary snack or simple carbs, on the other hand, can cause your blood sugar to spike then crash, which will wreak havoc on both your appetite and your energy levels.
Keep it snack-sized
When reaching for a snack, be mindful that the purpose of the snack is to bridge to your next meal, not become a meal itself. While our bodies need fuel, we also benefit from giving ourselves a break from constant digestion.
With this in mind, when you’re choosing snacks, go for snack-sized portions that will fill the hunger gap, yet ensure you’ll still be hungry when the time comes for your next meal.
So many snacking occasions happen when we’re pressed for time, tired, and hungry, and we have a difficult time controlling both the type of snack (give me sugar!) and the portion size (ALL the sugar!).
One of the ways I work around this is to pre-portion snack foods into individual servings. For example, if you buy a big bag of nuts or are bulk shopping, take some time to pre-portion your snacks into single snack-sized servings in small jars or baggies.
Before you grab a snack, stop and ask yourself why you’re reaching for it in the first place [source]. Are you actually hungry? Or are you tired? Bored? Lonely? Sad? Having a craving?
I know I snack a lot at work when I’m really just looking for an excuse to get up from my desk. If the answer is anything other than true hunger, try replacing the snack with something else, like a quick walk around the block, some simple stretches, or a nice cup of tea.
If you’ve done those things and you still feel the need for a snack, then have one.
Fuel your day
If you’re grabbing a snack between the office and your workout class, it should follow a different set of parameters than simply bridging the hunger gap between meals. For example, to get me through from lunch all the way to a late dinner and fuel an after-work swim, I often choose a much more energy-dense snack than I would otherwise.
On the other hand, if I know I’m going straight home to dinner, I choose a lighter snack, so I’ll still end up hungry for my evening meal.
Use a system
Here’s a system I like to use when choosing my snacks: choose one snack-sized portion of a healthy whole-grain carb, one to two snack-sized portions of proteins and healthy fats, and one to two servings of veggies or fruit (this post details what a serving of produce looks like).
You can skip the wholegrain carbs if you’re not in the mood or if you’re not fueling a workout with your snack and simply stick to protein + produce.
Metabolism Boosting Snack Ideas for Summer
Combine Produce + Protein in Snacks
When choosing healthy snacks, I like to aim for a combination of produce and protein. Here’s why:
Protein is satiating. It sticks to your ribs and keeps you satisfied in a way that you wouldn’t be if you snacked solely on simple carbohydrates like crackers.
Protein helps keep blood sugar stable by slowing digestion and moderating the uptake of sugars into the bloodstream.
Produce is packed with nutritious vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
The dietary fiber in fresh fruits and vegetables also helps to keep blood sugar stable, similarly to protein.
Remember when you’re choosing snacks to go for one to two snack-sized portions of proteins and healthy fats, one to two servings of veggies or fruit, and if needed, one snack-sized portion of a healthy wholegrain carb.
Summer snack ideas
We’re heading into the best produce season of the year! So here’s a list of 10 metabolism-boosting snack ideas that celebrate spring and summer produce. All of these snack suggestions are around 100 calories, give or take.
—1/2 cup roasted chickpeas with 1 cup red pepper slices
—1 cup sliced fresh strawberries with a small handful of shelled pistachios
—Metabolism-boost fruit toast combos
—1 sliced peach with 1 cup cottage cheese and 1-2 tablespoons of toasted wheat germ
—1 cup sliced radishes with 1 tablespoon of salted butter
—1/2 cup sugar snap peas with ½ cup fresh baby carrots
—Fat-burning strawberry mango smoothie recipe
—1 large tomato, sliced, with 2 ounces fresh mozzarella and a few fresh basil leaves
—1/2 an avocado on 1 slice toasted rye bread sprinkled with a bit of herb salt
—1 cup fresh raspberries with ½ cup Greek yogurt sprinkled with 1 teaspoon hemp seeds
—1 cob grilled or steamed corn, sprinkled with herb salt
—1 cup cubed watermelon with 2 ounces cubed feta
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, a licensed, board-certified physician who has been practicing for more than 20 years. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.31
Rebecca Payne says
Thank you for sharing these great snack tips.
Really? You want us to eat wheat? GMO wheat? Covered in pesticides? Wheat is now resistant to drought, pests and blight through the use of chemicals
It’s easy to harvest which has given farmers a dramatically high yield per acre
Biological manipulation (hybridized but technically not genetically altered) has made it higher in gluten (so it bakes into a fluffier end product)
We’re eating seeds that have been grown in synthetic soil to make a wheat that’s macerated to flimsy dust, then bleached and chemically treated, a “food” that no other animal will touch.
In a 1975 study (5), children who were fed recently irradiated wheat were found to have abnormal cell formation and polyploid lymph, the same type found in patients who were undergoing radiation treatment. A dramatic increase in these cells showed up in blood samples, and because of the potential danger, the study was ended. For verification, the study was continued on both monkeys and rats with the same results. The children, monkeys and rats all returned to normal after the wheat was discontinued.
Irradiated food lowers immune resistance, decreases fertility, damages the kidneys, depresses growth rates, and reduces vitamins A, B complex, C, E and K.
Alejandra Ivanez says
On the fruits & vegetables column, portion/quantity is not displayed, does that amount of intake matter or go by the picture? I found this to be a great guide and would love to have it in my kitchen as a reminder to pack my snacks!
This is just what I need. Confused though being that I read grains are counter productive to healthy eating as they hinder metabolism. I am thin but also 74 and know my metabolism is slowing even with exercising. Try to incorporate turmeric, cinnamon, chia, flax, etc so snack or meal listings as shown here would also simplify my meals. Thank you for your consideration.
Katie Trant says
Whole grains are a great part of a healthy diet for many people. Some folks swear they feel better when they avoid grains, but others (like me) don’t do well without them in their diet. Aim for whole grains like cooked wheat berries, spelt, brown rice, etc, as opposed to baked goods. Good luck!
So helpful, thx! I need to post this picture in my kitchen!