Meal prepping is a useful tool for weight loss and for maintaining a healthy weight: It ensures you have the nutritious meals you need for a week, ready to go and portioned out to avoid overeating. Plus, it helps you save money and reduce food waste, not to mention the feeling of accomplishment you’ll have after it’s completed. But even the most perfectly planned and executed meal prep can lead to failure when hunger strikes, especially at snacktime, (which might be the most overlooked meal). That’s where snack prep can save the day.
Snacking gets a bad reputation, but, when done properly and at the right times, it’s a key part of maintaining a healthy diet. About three hours after a meal, you might feel your energy level start to drop and temptation to peruse the doughnut box sitting in your office kitchen rise. Instead, a nutritious snack, easily available at your desk, can be just what you need to prevent the blood sugar crash eating a doughnut would have caused.
The best snacks are whole foods that are high in fiber and protein and around 100–200 calories. While that might not look or feel like a lot, when properly timed between meals, it can provide essential nutrients to help curb hunger and keep blood sugar levels steady.
Portion size is the most important thing to remember with snack prepping. Once you’ve figured out your favorite snacks, divide them into individual containers according to the portion size on their package. That way you won’t be tempted to overeat (it can be easy to eat an entire bag of nuts or go overboard on hummus if you’re not paying attention). If you’re not sure how to measure certain things, try searching for different foods in MyFitnessPal to get a calorie estimate.
Snacking is also an essential complement to your exercise routine. After a tough workout you need to replace your energy and promote healthy muscle recovery. To do so, it’s ideal to eat a mix of carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of your completed workout. This also keeps you full until you can sit down to a complete meal.
Luckily, snack opportunities are endless. Small servings of nuts are great options and last for months in a sealed container. Nut butter on toast, hummus and veggies, a small serving of cheese, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, fruit and air-popped popcorn are all great choices, too, though they have a shelf life of closer to 1–2 weeks. Make sure to pair your snacks with a full glass of water — too often hunger can be confused with dehydration.