We’re big on healthy snacks here (see our annual Taste Test Awards for our latest and greatest snack finds), so when the opportunity came up to speak to one of our favorite nutrition stars, Joy Bauer, we were hungry for the opportunity. Bauer, founder of Nourish Snacks and Nutrition/Health Expert for NBC’s TODAY Show, shares her thoughts on how to snack smarter and why a good snack is a perfect—and necessary—part of a healthful diet.

What's changed in the snacking world in the last few years?People are snacking more and more… and more! In fact, we’re seeing a lot snacking instead of meals. People are much more educated in terms of health—they read labels more often, they’re making conscious decisions as to what they’re buying and putting into their bodies… and companies are responding, which is great!

What trends are you seeing in snacks?Some snack trends we’re noticing are single portions, wholesome ingredients, gluten-free, non-GMO, and low added sugar. Also, people are moving away from artificial sweeteners and avoiding foods with artificial dyes and colors. We are seeing a lot of interesting ingredients in snacks such as chickpeas, chia seeds, cacao nibs, and quinoa. We are building a fabulous movement toward better-for-you snacks!

What are the biggest mistakes one can make when seeking out snacks?One big mistake is buying and eating from multi-serving bags—even if a food is healthy, you can wind up overeating and gaining weight. Another “snacktastrophe” is not planning ahead and waiting until you’re starving and stuck with unhealthy options and a low resolve. In this case you’re more likely to eat whatever’s available like candy bars, chips, and pastries.

What’s the perfect definition of a snack to you?The perfect snack is something that tastes delicious and leaves you feeling energized and satisfied. I have 3 rules. Make sure your snack contains:1) no more than 200 calories2) either protein or fiber (ideally both), because those things help to stabilize your blood sugars (and healthy fats can come along for the ride too!)3) nutrient-rich ingredients

How can healthy snacks stand in for a meal when you're on the go?If you choose the right snack in the right amounts (as mentioned above) and couple it with a piece of fruit or yogurt, you’re good to go. Or, you can also double up—or triple up—on a healthy snack portion and call it a meal. One of my favorite breakfasts is a nonfat Greek yogurt with a Nourish Snacks bag like Coco’nilla Crunch (coconut-vanilla granola bites). And if I don’t have time for lunch, I’ve been known to eat 2 or 3 bags. Make sure the snacks you choose are energizing so you feel like you’ve fueled up as you would have with a meal.

What's your favorite tip for sneaking in healthy items when it comes to kids'/teens' lunches?It’s really about making it fun, and obviously it has to be tasty! With kids, a lot has to do with the way it looks. Try individual containers of yogurt with small bags of toppings like granola, fresh or dried fruit, and nuts. Instead of a plain ham and cheese sandwich, try making pinwheels by rolling the meat and cheese up in a whole grain tortilla and cutting it into slices. And make your kiddos part of the process. To me, the perfect lunch bag contains 4 things: a protein, a produce, a fun treat (200 cals or less), and a funky looking, reusable water bottle filled with H20. Come up with a list together with your kids of all the things from the protein, produce and fun food categories. Half of it is about empowering them by making them a part of the lunchbox packing process. Then you don’t have to sneak in the healthy items--they choose them.

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