I try hard to get three square meals into my toddler every day, but sometimes I'm guilty of not doing the same for myself. So when 5 o'clock hits, my stomach starts growling and I need something to tide me over until dinner time.
I've often made the mistake of grabbing a bag of chips, and before I know it, half the bag is gone and I'm not hungry for dinner anymore. Here are some rules I've set to keep myself in check if I decide to snack before dinner!
1. Drink a glass of water first.
More times than not, I'm actually thirsty rather than hungry. If I've been working in front of the computer most of the day, chances are that I didn't drink enough water. If water isn't your favorite thing, try flavoring it with lemon or cucumber first. Downing a glass of water usually perks me up and sometimes I find that the supposed hunger goes away!
2. Stick to vegetables or fruit if you can.
You've had a glass of water and you're still hungry, so now what? There's nothing wrong with a light snack, and not surprisingly, your best bets are fruits and vegetables since they won't fill you up and ruin your dinner.
But even if you do overdo it and eat too much, all is not lost. Just think of it this way: You've just eaten some of your dinner vegetable servings a little early! My favorite veggie or fruit snacks are kale chips, crudité with yogurt dip, edamame, and apple slices with a tiny bit of almond butter.
3. Prep your snacks beforehand.
The hungrier I am, the more likely I am to make poor snacking choices since convenience and speed matter much more than what I'm eating. But if you take a few extra minutes during meal prep to cut up some extra fruits and vegetables so they're ready to go, healthier snacks are always at your fingertips.
And one genius tip? Put a crudité platter at eye level in your fridge so it's the first thing you see and grab.
4. Portion out your snacks.
Let's be honest, there are days when vegetable sticks or fruit just aren't going to cut it as a pre-dinner snack. My weakness is little goldfish cheddar crackers, but if I eat them straight out of the package, I usually end up eating more than I should. My way of dealing with this is to portion out the snack into one of the little metal bowls I usually use for prepping (called mise bowls) and allow myself one — and only one — bowl.
If you pre-portion what you're eating and put away the rest of the package, you won't end up mindlessly eating more than you should. You can even purposely splurge on a pretty designated snack bowl that makes you happy every time you eat out of it!
5. Eat a few bites of something intensely flavorful.
Sometimes you want a pre-dinner snack because you're bored or need a distraction; I know I'm often guilty of that. I've found that just a few bites of something intensely flavorful, like pickles, flavored nuts, dried fruit, salami, cheese, or a small piece of really dark chocolate satisfies that craving and I don't need to eat anything else.