Maintaining a healthy heart requires a balanced diet and regular exercise. One way to promote heart health is by making healthy snack choices. Snacking is a great way to curb hunger between meals and prevent overeating during meals. However, not all snacks are created equal. Here are our top ten tips for choosing heart-healthy snacks.
1. Choose whole foods
Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed and contain no added sugars or fats. These foods are typically high in nutrients and low in calories. Some examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These foods are great choices for snacking because they are nutrient-dense and can help keep you feeling full and satisfied.
2. Look for snacks high in fiber
Fiber is an important nutrient for heart health. It helps to lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels. Snacks that are high in fiber can help you feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time. Some high-fiber snack options include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain crackers, and nuts.
3. Avoid processed foods
Processed foods are often high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium. These foods can contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure, and other health problems. Examples of processed foods include chips, cookies, and candy. Instead of choosing these snacks, opt for whole foods or minimally processed snacks.
4. Watch your portion sizes
Even healthy snacks can be high in calories if consumed in large quantities. It’s important to watch your portion sizes when snacking. One serving of nuts is typically a small handful, while one serving of fruit is about the size of a tennis ball. Use measuring cups or a food scale to help you determine the appropriate portion size for your snacks.
5. Choose snacks that are low in sodium
Excess sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease. When choosing snacks, look for options that are low in sodium. Some examples of low-sodium snacks include fresh fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts, and low-sodium crackers.
6. Opt for healthy fats
Not all fats are bad for your heart. Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts and seeds, can actually improve heart health. These fats can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Other sources of healthy fats include avocado and olive oil.
7. Plan ahead
Planning ahead can help you make healthier snack choices. When you’re hungry and in a rush, it can be easy to reach for unhealthy snack options. Plan your snacks ahead of time and keep them on hand so you always have a healthy option available.
8. Read those labels
As food companies work to provide healthier snacks, consumers need to look beyond terms like “healthy” or “natural” on the label. That “healthy” nutrition bar might have more calories than a candy bar. Also check for added sugars and high levels of sodium.
9. Watch the beverages
Drinks count as you keep track of between-meal calories. Many people are aware of the calories in soda but might overlook what’s in juice or their coffee drink. Consider options such as plain or sparkling water, unsweetened tea or coffee, or a small glass of 100% fruit juice.
10. Beware the break room
A 2019 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics indicated that people commonly consumed food provided by vending machines, company cafeterias and friendly employers or colleagues – and that added an average of 1,300 calories to workers’ weekly totals. So if you work outside the home, consider taking your own healthy snacks with you.
Choosing heart-healthy snacks is an important part of maintaining a healthy heart. By choosing whole foods, high-fiber snacks, and healthy fats, you can promote heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease. Remember to watch your portion sizes and avoid processed foods as much as possible. With a little planning and preparation, you can make snacking a healthy part of your diet.
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