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HC How To: 3 Easy Tips for Healthy Midnight Snacking

As miderterms roll around, it’s time to burn the midnight oil while studying for the Orgo exam or writing the ten-page paper that you’ve pushed off until the last minute. But if you’re anything like me, the munchies hit around 11pm during a late night of classwork and the search for food begins.

The first instinct is to reach for a chocolate chip cookie or bag of potato chips from Char Mar. Then there are the candy bars we all love. While I have attempted to reason with myself that one bite-size Twix bar wouldn’t be too unhealthy, I always end up with a pile of wrappers, a sugar rush, and a twang of guilt. Happened to you before? Well, in a society where vending machines hold cupcakes and local convenience stores have shelves of fat-laden ice cream, it may be difficult to purchase good foods that are also good for you.

The next time you need a midnight snack, follow these simple tips for better snacking that won’t limit you to baby carrots.

1.  Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Unless you’re eating fruit (which would be the optimal choice), try to avoid snacks that are high in sugar. Sugar can be hiding anywhere in your food. It carries no nutritional value and may give you few additional pounds around the waist. A diet high in sugar may also lead to increased risks of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

It goes without saying that ice cream, candy, doughnuts, and other sugary foods should be avoided. But if you have a sweet tooth like me, protein bars and cereal bars are the healthier alternatives that can be just as tasty. Just make sure to check the sugar content of your snack choice. Many protein bars, such as Clif bars and PowerBars, have over 20 grams of sugar. A better protein bar or snack bar would contain around 10 grams of sugar, which is plenty of sweetness to fuel your late-night study sessions.

Dried and freeze-dried fruits, such as apple chips and dried blueberries, are also great choices. Easily portable, dried fruit has the sugary taste people crave in a midnight snack. Just grab some freeze-dried strawberries in a Ziploc bag and you’re good to go.  Besides containing vitamins and minerals, dried fruit is also high in fiber and great for your digestive system. However, double check the nutritional information to ensure the package of dried fruit isn’t packed with added sugar. A serving of dried cranberries can contain nearly 30 grams of sugar, which equals the amount in a can of soda!

2. Choose Healthy Fats

There are times when I just want to throw healthy living out the door and munch on chips or a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. We’ve all had these cravings for fatty foods that tantalize the taste buds, especially when we’re stressed and exhausted. Although ironic, there are actually healthier choices for “junk” food.

The next time you want a rich and indulgent snack for a study break, choose all natural peanut butter. Some people aren’t big fans of plain nuts and seeds, but peanut butter is popular, tasty, and convenient to purchase. Use it in peanut butter sandwiches or on crackers. You could also make it into one of my favorite snacks, peanut butter on apple slices. All natural peanut butter gives you protein and is packed with healthy fats (unsaturated fats) that keep your heart and body healthy.  Just remember to look over what you buy! Many brands of peanut butter offered in the markets have corn syrup, added sugar, and additional oils. Steer towards all natural peanut butter that contains only peanuts and small amounts of salt. It’s better to have simple ingredients in a healthy snack!

If you’re craving something savory and crunchy, try vegetable chips. These chips have less saturated fat than regular potato chips and also add more fiber into your diet. Low sodium vegetable chips would definitely make a better alternative to your Lay’s. But if you still want potato chips, choose brands that use olive oil and avocado oil. Although they are still high in fat, those chips contain mostly unsaturated fat. With the abundant choices available in stores, it’s pretty easy to choose flavorful and healthy chips for a crunchy snack. Don’t be scared of trying these new snack foods. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how delicious these alternatives can be.

3. Maintain Portion Control

Although I am a stickler for healthy eating, I occasionally indulge in a Snickerdoodle or brownie. But, I definitely look out for serving sizes. When you want to treat yourself, make sure you’re eating a proper portion. While looking at packages of chips, cookies, ice cream, and even bottled soda, it’s common to see more than one serving per package. A pint of Haagen-Dazs has 4 servings, each of which is half a cup! Yes, I didn’t believe it either the first time I read the nutritional facts (and I still don’t want to believe it). These days, it’s easy to misstep and consume too much.

To easily control your portion size, make sure you remove your food from its packaging and place it into a separate container when you’re snacking. I tend to consume far more than a serving size when snacking directly out of a box of cookies or family-size bag of chips. Buying snacks that are already packaged in separate servings, such as ice cream in those adorable mini cups, can also help with controlling portion size. You can definitely have your cake and eat it too (just don’t eat the whole thing).

 

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