african american woman eating a healthy granola bar

When it comes to snacking, I am a boss. I mean, if snacking were a company, I would own it. It’s just…it’s my thing.

It wasn’t easy to get to this point – there’s lots of conflicting information out there. “Oh, it should be okay to snack on [insert really weird and unsatisfying food] because it’s only a few calories in every serving!” often winds up intermingling with “Oh, when you’re starving, this really weird and unsatisfying food will help you tame your hunger!” and, before you know it, you’re chowing down on something that actually pulls you farther away from your goals than you’d hoped for. Nobody got time for that.

Like the great philosopher Meek Mill says, there’s levels to this. And I want to share with you everything I’ve learned about snacking, and how to make your snacks as fulfilling and as meaningful as possible…because if I catch you out here with a half-ounce bag of potato chips, there might be smoke in the city:

1) Snack with a purpose. Understand why you’re eating before you head towards the fridge or the vending machine. Are you hungry, and trying to tide yourself over until you get home? Are you having a little bit of a sweet tooth attack? (Is it movie night with the boo? I can solve this quickly: home-popped popcorn. No contest.) Are you bored? (No snack for you!) You need to identify which one it is, because…

2) A meal might be a better choice than a snack. It’s okay to admit that you’re one of the many people in the world for whom a 3-meal-a-day system doesn’t work. There’s nothing wrong with that! If your hunger is more meal-level than it is something that can be easily managed with a little finger food, then it might be time to plan ahead. Try to be mindful of whether or not this is a pattern for you – if, at around 3PM, you start getting that meal-level hunger, and make the choice: do you need to reformulate your lunch, or do you need to plan ahead and prepare for another meal at this hour?

3) Choose snacks that can provide a little energy pick-me-up – don’t ever count out the fruit. Fruits that are high in fiber, have great flavor, and leave you satisfied are ideal here. Oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, raspberries, apples, mangoes are all delicious and can hold you over until the next time you can sit down and have a meal. Don’t count out dried fruit, either – mango and banana come to mind – and, my own personal tip: frozen fruits! Berries, grapes, and mango chunks, fresh out the freezer on a warm summer night? You just don’t know how refreshing that is!

4) For something a little heftier, think protein. Depending on your goals, this could be hard boiled eggs or even chicken breast (yes, people do this all the time!), raw veggies and dip (my favorite example of this is celery and hummus), or even Greek yogurt with fruit on top. The protein will tame a rumbling belly and, before you know it, meal time will have arrived and you won't be starving at the dinner table! But, none of this can be as successful as it needs to be, unless you…

5) Plan ahead. Learn what your body needs, learn what makes you tick, learn how your schedule affects your appetite, and prepare yourself for that in advance. Containers like the Bento Box, the 6 Pack Bag, and the Isobag all have multiple compartments for you to store much of what you need to get you through the day, but it’ll only help if you plan ahead! Like I always say, your body will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award-winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she chronicles her journey of going from 330lb couch potato to certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and all-around fitness dynamo. Ask her your health and fitness-related questions on twitter at @bgg2wl.