You’re conflicted about snacks. You eat between meals because you’re hungry, but you’re concerned that snacking interferes with your plan to eat better. Not to worry. When done right, snacking can be good for you, especially for your brain.

Busy people often skimp on meals or skip them altogether. Going without food for long periods is hard on your brain, because it requires a steady source of fuel to function at its fullest capacity. Healthy snacking helps you avoid energy slumps while supplying nutrients the brain needs in the short term and the long run. 

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Three Rules for Healthy Snacks

A healthy snack bridges the gap between meals, and offers the opportunity to include nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, that supply nutrients your brain needs every day. Follow these pointers to maximize between meal noshes.

• Think of snacks as mini nutritious meals. Save foods such as chips, candy, and cookies for occasional treats.

• Limit snacks to 200 calories or less, and account for snack calories as part of your daily calorie allowance to encourage a healthy body weight.

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• Pair protein-packed foods, such as nuts, low-fat dairy or soy, with carbohydrate-containing fare, including whole grains, fruit, and vegetables.  Your brain needs protein to build brain cells and neurotransmitters.  Protein helps keep you fuller for longer, and protein-packed foods are generally rich in vitamins and minerals.  Carbohydrate-containing choices such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables provide energy and other nutrients such fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Delicious and Nutrition Noshes For Your Brain

Nibble on these energizing protein and carbohydrate combinations:

Eat this:

Hard cooked egg + 6 whole grain crackers

Your brain benefits because:

In addition to being packed with protein, eggs are a source of choline, the raw material for a neurotransmitter involved in memory.

Eat this:

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Small carton plain fat-free Greek yogurt and ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Your brain benefits because:

Blueberries are brimming with water and are naturally low in sodium, a combination that helps your body to better maintain a healthy blood pressure to support brain health.

Eat this:

3 cups fat-fat popcorn tossed with 2 tablespoons sliced almonds and ¼ cup raisins

Your brain benefits because:

Popcorn is a whole grain with fiber that helps your brain receive a steady source of energy.  Raisins are rich in potassium to help brain cells function at their best.

Eat this:

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Cherry Vanilla Sipper: Combine ¾ cup frozen sweet pitted cherries, 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 ice cubes in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and drink immediately.

Your brain benefits because:

Cherries supply powerful plant compounds that help protect cells in the brain and the rest of the body.  Chia seeds are a source of fiber and omega-3 fat, a type favored by brain cells. 

Eat this:

Edamame in the pod

You brain benefits because:

Edamame packs protein, carbohydrate, and fiber in a single food.  Edamame is also relatively rich in iron, a mineral the brain requires for normal functioning. Keep frozen edamame on hand and microwave one cup at a time for snacks.