It’s 3 pm and your stomach is growling. I bet this has happened to you because this happens to me every day. As a runner, eating only 3 meals a day just doesn’t cut it. Even if you don’t run and you work out and are trying to loss weight, eating smaller meals throughout the day is better for your body and metabolism. Diet experts believe more frequent meals could be better. Eating six small meals a day, they say, helps regulate blood sugar, control cravings and keep hunger at bay. As long as you choose the right foods and watch portion sizes, “grazing” throughout the day can help you lose weight while keeping you energized. But it’s not for everyone — especially if you have trouble controlling the amount you eat or if you don’t have time to plan and prepare and healthy snacks and meals.
Eating smaller meals more often provides an excellent opportunity to eat a healthier diet. Shifting your focus from high-calorie snacks to balanced mini-meals could be exactly what you need to help you whittle your waistline.
But eating three squares is also a perfectly healthy way to eat and lose weight. So choose the meal plan that works best for your lifestyle. As long as your meals are well-distributed through the day, and you never go more than 4-5 hours without food, you can reach your weight loss goals with three, four, five, or six meals a day. The choice is up to you!
Here is some of my favorite Snacks (mini-meals) as a runner:
1. Bananas: Bananas are chock full of good carbohydrates. They are a good source of vitamin B6 and are vital for managing protein metabolism. (Runners need more protein during and after workouts.)
2. Cereal with Skim Milk: Most cereals are vitamin- and mineral-fortified, and they’re great with fresh fruit sliced on top. Cereal is a quick-to-prepare, easily digestible, and healthful way to satisfy your sweet tooth. (Even some sweetened cereals are a good low-fat alternative to cookies). Choose cereals that have 5 grams of fiber or more per serving.
3. Chocolate Milk: Chocolate milk is cold and helps keep you hydrated. It also provides plenty of protein, carbohydrates, and B vitamins. The calcium in milk will help keep your bones strong. This is a great snack after a long run plus it helps repair your muscles.
4. Granola Bars: A low-calorie granola bar will satisfy your sweet cravings, without the fat calories of a candy bar. And unlike candy bars, granola bars come with B vitamins and iron. I make homemade granola bars!
5. Hummus on wheat crackers: This filling snack packs plenty of protein, fiber, vitamin B6, and folic acid. The latter is especially important for a healthy pregnancy and has recently been shown to prevent anemia and breast cancer. This is a great mid afternoon snack. One of my favorites!
6. Oatmeal: Studies show oatmeal helps lower cholesterol. Oatmeal will also fill you with plenty of carbohydrates to boost energy and alertness. A great pre-race breakfast.
7. Microwave popcorn: Unbuttered or slightly buttered popcorn is low in calories (mostly from carbohydrates), yet filling. It’s perfect when you crave a salty food but don’t want many calories.
8. Pretzels: Like popcorn, pretzels are a low-calorie carbohydrate treat. Even the salty kinds are okay for runners who don’t have high blood pressure, as they’ll help you replace the sodium you lose through sweating. They’re excellent as an afternoon snack.
9. String Cheese: Many runners fail to meet their calcium requirement, especially those who don’t eat many dairy products. String cheese is a tasty, convenient way to take in calcium and protein as well as some fat.
10. Yogurt: Yogurt is a great source of calcium, protein, and potassium, plus it’s low in fat and fairly high in carbohydrates. The live and active cultures in yogurt will boost your immune system. I prefer the greek yogurt and I add some fruit or granola for some crunch.
11. Peanut Butter on Toast: Peanut butter is a good source of niacin and folic acid (they help convert food to energy) and vitamin E. In addition, the dense calories in peanut butter keep your energy level on an even keel and your hunger down throughout the day. And that, in turn, will prevent you from overeating and keep you eating healthfully all day. In fact, I am eating this right now as I write the post!
Do you have any favorite healthy snack ideas? Do you eat 3, 4, 5, or 6 meals a day? We would love to hear from you :)