Smart snack strategies

If you’re trying to improve your diet, between-meal snacks can either help or hinder your efforts. Several simple strategies can keep you on track, whether you’re trying to manage diabetes, ward off heart disease, or lose weight.

Perhaps the most important tip is to upgrade the quality of your snack choices. “Many people favor starchy snacks, such as chips and bread,” says Marc O’Meara, a dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Many of the veggie chips people believe are healthy are just potato chips with vegetable powder added for flavor and color, he notes.

Better balance

You’re better off choosing more nutritious carbohydrate-based foods, such as fruit or whole-grain crackers, and to balance them with a little bit of protein or healthy fat. Doing so will release the carbohydrate into your bloodstream slowly over a longer time. That gives your body more time to burn the calories, and you’re also more likely to feel full and satisfied until your next meal.

When you eat low-quality carbs like candy or potato chips, you’re often hungry again within an hour (see “The sugar cycle”). You then end up eating even more calories, which are then stored as fat, foiling your attempts to lose weight and control your blood sugar, O’Meara explains.

Snacks can help you get the recommended four to five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, a goal most Americans don’t meet. But instead of having a whole apple or banana, have just half, and pair it with a small handful of nuts, such as unsalted almonds or peanuts (for other ideas, see “Healthy snack suggestions”). If you need a portable snack, all-natural bars made with dried fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate can be a good option. Look for brands made with whole foods, not highly processed products.

Healthy snack suggestions choose whole, minimally processed foods that contain healthy sources of fats, carbs, and protein. For example:1/2 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt topped with fresh or frozen berries1/4 cup of trail mix made with nuts or seeds, dried fruit, and dark chocolate1/4 cup hummus with 1 cup fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots, broccoli florets, and cherry tomato peanut, almond, or sunflower butter on sliced apple, pear, banana, or whole-grain cracker show-fat cheese cubes (about the size of three or four dice in total) with an apple or a small bunch of grapes1/2 cup shelled edamame (fresh green soybeans, sold shelled or in pods, usually in the freezer section).

Hunger — or habit?

By curbing hunger between meals, snacks may help prevent overeating during meals. When people get too hungry before dinner, they’re often tempted to get quick but high-calorie take-out meals instead of spending the time to cook a healthy, homemade meal, says O’Meara.

But sometimes, people snack out of habit rather than hunger, he says. For instance, maybe you treat yourself to a cookie every day at 3 p.m. But there are probably days you aren’t actually hungry, because you had a filling lunch or skipped your workout. “Before you grab a snack, ask yourself, ‘am I really hungry, or am I just following a routine?’” says O’Meara.

Many people snack after dinner. But if you eat a well-balanced dinner around 6 or 7 p.m., it takes about four hours for your body to digest that food. That means you shouldn’t be hungry again before you go to bed at 10 or 11 p.m.

Mindless snacking while watching television is very common, so try to watch less. Enjoy your favorite show, but once it’s over, stop. Don’t stay on the couch or your favorite chair — move to another part of your house that’s far away from the kitchen. Do another activity, such as reading or a hobby, during which you won’t be tempted to nosh, O’Meara says.

Another trick he recommends that you can use any time of the day is to sip a hot beverage instead of having a snack. “A mug of herbal tea or decaf coffee fills you up and blunts your appetite,” says O’Meara. This practice may even encourage weight loss, according to some research.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. (Psalm 51:14
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all. (Psalm 65:3)

Yet he was merciful and forgave their sins and did not destroy them all. Many times he held back his anger and did not unleash his fury! (Psalm 78:38)

Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name. Save us and forgive our sins for the honor of your name. (Psalm 79:9)

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalm 86:5)
But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. (Psalm 103:3)

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. (Psalm 103:8)
But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. (Psalm 130:4)

The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. (Psalm 145:8)
The people of Israel will no longer say, “We are sick and helpless,” for the Lord will forgive their sins. (Isaiah 33:24)

Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. (Isaiah 55:7)

“My wayward children,” says the Lord, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” “Yes, we’re coming,” the people reply, “for you are the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 3:22)

“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem,” says the Lord. “Look high and low; search throughout the city! If you can find even one just and honest person, I will not destroy the city. (Jeremiah 5:1)

“How can I pardon you? For even your children have turned from me. They have sworn by gods that are not gods at all! I fed my people until they were full. But they thanked me by committing adultery and lining up at the brothels. (Jeremiah 5:7)

Lord, you know all about their murderous plots against me. Don’t forgive their crimes and blot out their sins. Let them die before you. Deal with them in your anger. (Jeremiah 18:23)

And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12)
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. (Matthew 6:14) But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:15)

Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)

Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? (Matthew 9:5) So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” (Matthew 9:6)

“So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. (Matthew 12:31) Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come. (Matthew 12:32)

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21) “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:22)
Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. (Matthew 18:32)

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)
for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. (Matthew 26:28)

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