It's the start of the week. You've done your research and have a lineup of healthy meal ideas all ready to go. You're feeling pumped to tackle this diet stuff and—once and for all—achieve your fitness and bodyweight goals.
But have you forgotten to include healthy between-meal snacks? Far too often, people only perfect their three main meals each day. Come snack time, they're left opting for vending machine fare or whatever they can find at the local convenience store. Worse yet, they swing by a local greasy spoon for a drive-thru visit. If they skip snacking entirely, they miss their calorie and macronutrient target.
Don't let this happen to you. Plan ahead so that you have some smart snack ideas on hand! To help get you started, here are a few great between-meal options that you can use for each point in the day.
1. Mid-Morning Munchies
You ate a balanced breakfast and were feeling great for the first half of the morning. But now it's 10:30 a.m. and your 6 a.m. meal is starting to wear off. What do you reach for?
Rather than making the common mistake of grabbing a sugar-loaded coffee, grab this favorite of Cellucor athlete and strongman Colton Leonard: protein peanut butter balls. His recipe below provides the perfect mix of protein and slow-digesting carbohydrates, which is the requirement of any between-meal snack he eats.
"These protein peanut butter balls are a great way to get extra healthy calories in throughout the day if building lean mass is your goal," says Leonard.
2. Mid-Afternoon Fuel
With lunch now well behind you, you're heading into an afternoon meeting and can feel your blood sugar levels plummeting. There's nothing like that mid-afternoon low to make it nearly impossible to stay focused on the task at hand. And if you choose the wrong snack at this time, your low will turn into a slump and you'll be ready for your mid-day siesta.
Choose wisely and you can get around this. "My all-time favorite between-meal snack is cottage cheese and watermelon," says Cellucor athlete and bodybuilder Calum Von Moger. To change things up, he'll occasionally swap the watermelon out for freeze-dried fruit.
This snack is ideal because it doesn't hit you with a load of carbs, which will just make you sleepy. Instead, it gives you a few carbohydrates from the watermelon and some very slow-digesting protein from the cottage cheese to keep you going until dinner.
3. Pre-Bed Snacking
Perhaps the hardest time of the day to control your cravings is right before you go to bed. Many people get caught up in the late-night munchies, which leads them to mindlessly plow through bags of chips, boxes of cookies, or a little more ice cream than they had planned to eat.
Staying in control of your diet is essential at this time, especially because you're about to be sedentary for eight or more hours while you sleep. Choose wisely and you can fuel your body, helping it complete the important repair processes needed for you to wake up the next day feeling strong and energized.
However, don't think you have to fight your sweet cravings and nosh on chicken breast and broccoli. If you plan ahead and learn some smart recipes, you can please both your taste buds and body.
"I'm a self-proclaimed dessert monster," says Cellucor athlete and WBFF Fitness Pro Jen Jewell. "I'm always on the lookout for delicious and simple ways to have my protein treats while keeping my abs." As such, she has perfected the recipe to achieve this goal—her Protein Cookie Delight.