(Family Features) It's a myth that snacking in between meals is a no-no. In reality, it's a healthy habit to keep hunger at bay without sacrificing taste or nutrition, according to Cynthia Sass, registered dietitian and author of the New York Times bestselling book "S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches."
Choosing wholesome snacks is the smartest way to get through the day, Sass says. Healthy snacking helps manage cravings while satisfying hunger and providing the body with important nutrients.
"Planning your snacks is just as important as planning your meals," Sass says. "You're far less likely to overeat or miss out on important nutrients when you satisfy cravings with a snack you've considered in advance."
Sass recommends plant-based snacks to help slow digestion and absorption, which keeps you fuller longer and better controls blood sugar and insulin levels. "I like to pair a handful of almonds with apples, cheese or yogurt to help keep my metabolism and energy levels up and stabilized," she says.
To snack smart, follow these tips from Sass:
Stick to a schedule: Going long stretches without food deprives your body of the fuel it needs and slows your metabolism. Have simple snacks on hand so you don't get too hungry and become ravenous later. "Almonds with cheese, creamy almond butter and apple slices and yogurt topped with fruit and sprinkled with cinnamon are a few of my go-to snacks," says Sass.
Create portable favorites in case of emergency: We all have days when life doesn't go according to plan. Having portable snack options at the ready helps prevent crashing or giving in to poor food choices. Pack a zip-top plastic bag or container with a handful of wholesome snacks - such as dried fruit - to keep in your purse or gym bag so you'll always have a snack on hand to curb any craving.
Indulge on occasion: The good news? You can indulge a little when it comes to dark chocolate. "I eat dark chocolate every day for many reasons," Sass says. "Dark chocolate contains antioxidants - such as those found in red wine and tea - which can boost brain activity, lower blood pressure, improve circulation and reduce stress levels."
Separate the physical and emotional: We sometimes tend to mistake emotions for hunger, and our moods often determine our food choices. Keeping a food diary to record all snacks and meals, along with feelings and the signs of hunger or fullness, helps identify eating patterns.
To help make your snack choices even easier, try The Almond Snack Generator at www.almondboard.com/snackgenerator, a handy new tool that lets you choose snack pairings based on your cravings, so you can snack anytime, anywhere.