Not Just Carrot Sticks: Five Steps to Healthy Snacking

Many might think that cutting out snacking is the way to lose weight. In reality, though, three meals a day isn't the answer to a healthy, balanced diet. If you get too hungry between meals, you'll end up impulse-ordering that bacon cheese burger you don't really need or eating that chocolate pudding straight from your fridge in the middle of the night. Putting aside all Doritos and its like-minded, orange-powdered friends, snacking can be a great way to keep your diet in check. Just follow these easy steps:

1. Eat breakfast! The key to smart snacking between meals is not missing meals, especially the most important one of the day. The way to avoid those 11 o’clock potato chip cravings? Start the day right and fuel your body properly. Wake up with a bowl of homemade vegan granola, perfect with low-fat milk and fresh fruit. And if you’re feeling adventurous over the weekend, you can even make your own yogurt to go with it.

2. Make your own dressings. Think bringing veggies and dip to work for a snack is a smart choice? You’re right—if you make your own dressing. Store-bought ones are loaded with sugar, fat and artificial ingredients, and even the “diet"  versions aren’t good-for-you. Take Hidden Valley’s Fat Free Ranch: The first ingredient is water, the second is corn syrup. Not. Good. Swap out the processed product and make your own dressing in the time it would take you to get to the supermarket and back. Try Cilantro, Basil, and Mint Yogurt Dip or Citrus Salsa Verde; both are full of color and flavor, not fat or sugar.

3. Don’t fight that sweet tooth. As Alex Guarnaschelli recently and aptly tweeted, “Why does chocolate ice cream have so much more appeal at 10 pm?” If only we knew. The Chopped judge is onto something, though: We all get sugary cravings, and they always arrive at the worst times. Instead of ignoring it, satisfy your next craving with something indulgent and fresh, like Dark Chocolate Bark with Blueberries and Almonds. It’s only 110 calories per serving. That's 176 less than a cup of chocolate ice cream!

4. Take a queue from Paula Deen. No, not by eating a deep-fried stick of butter. (Though, what a diet that would be!) The Queen of Southern Cooking recently lost 30 pounds and shared with the press that a key part of her diet was smoothies. When made from scratch, smoothies are a quick and yummy way to incorporate fruit, yogurt, and even vegetables into your diet. Make yourself a Pomegranate, Blueberry, and Banana Smoothie or a Vegan Super Duper Green Kale Smoothie for a cool pick-me-up or on-the-go breakfast.

5. ‘Lettuce’ rethink salad. Salad is too often seen as the dieter’s punishment. At mealtime, it takes the place of beloved dishes like mac and cheese and pizza—and usually puts diners right to sleep. But salads need not be boring or even main meals.  With the right ingredient combinations, they can be even more flavorful than comfort food, and in the right container, they can be the perfect snack. Make Red Rice Salad with Lemon Miso Dressing or Marcus's Barley Salad and bring it to work for lunch.

Follow Emma on Twitter @emmalaperruque