It's 3 p.m. and you're miles away from dinner, but that salad at lunch didn't quite fill you up. What snacks should you choose? And should you snack in the first place? We asked some of our favorite nutrition experts for their take on the biggest snacking mistakes we all make -- and what we can do to make better choices when it comes to noshing between meals.
Snacking in the first place
Do you really need that snack? Heather Bauer, R.D. isn't so sure. "Only about 50 percent of people need to snack," she tells HuffPost. For some, a snack can help maintain metabolic health, regulate blood sugar and lead to better, healthier meal choices and greater portion control during lunch or dinner. But for others? "It's just an added source of calories," she says.
Ask yourself this question: When you snack, do you eat less or more healthfully at your next meal? If the answer is no -- and you don't have an underlying health condition that requires regular snacking, like hypoglycemia or diabetes -- it might make sense to eschew the extra bites and wait for a big meal.
Confusing the terms "snack" and "treat"
It's hard to tell: those office cookies, a can of soda or even a handful of pretzels can seem like a small enough dose of guilty pleasure calories -- especially if you're careful to eat healthful meals. But not only is that bad-for-you treat contributing to excess calories, it won't do much to satiate your hunger.
Some foods can be confusing -- how can you tell if that chocolate-y energy bar or super sweet smoothie is really a good idea? Keep track of your fullness, advises Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.
"Snacks offer nutrition and fullness to help bridge one meal to the next," Blatner says. "Treats don't give either."
Having 'healthy' carbs alone
"So many people think that an apple or orange (alone) is a healthy snack," writes Cheryl Forberg, R.D in an email to HuffPost. "While they are both great, they are so much better with protein (add a mozzarella cheese stick, a few slices turkey or almond butter on your sliced apple)."
That's because the protein helps to slow the release of sugar into the blood stream, which in turn prevents a big insulin spike, she explains. That spike can cause an energy crash and send you searching for more food to nibble on. And protein is also more likely to keep you feeling full.
Read more on HuffPost Healthy Living.