When hunger pangs strike in between meals, they can come on suddenly and persist, leaving little room for concentration on the task at hand. Whether it's 2 p.m. and you're at the office, trying to get some more papers shuffled around, or afterschool and you're at soccer practice, trying to warm up, or on a long, long road trip with nary a rest stop in sight, reaching for that bag of chips, cookies, or candy may seem awfully tempting. And once you've done the dirty deed, it seems like only minutes later, hunger strikes again.
But it doesn't have to be that way. With a little advance planning, you can eliminate the vending-machine mentality. That's why we've consulted a couple of experts on the best healthy snack alternatives that will hold you over until the next meal, instead of triggering cravings.
Meet Matt Terry, a certified personal trainer and former Olympic athlete with a list of letters after his name that would rival most doctors. Terry says, "The best snack foods really depend on someone's goals and current body composition. For example, if you are an endurance athlete who runs five miles a day, your snack choices will be far different from someone on a fat-loss program who leads a sedentary lifestyle." Ultimately, that means someone who is training for a marathon is probably going to be able to eat more foods higher up on the glycemic index without seeing the same negative impact as the couch potato. That's an important point, because admittedly, the aim of this article is indeed to help out the couch potatoes out there, or perhaps more generously, the active couch potatoes. (Yes, there is such a thing, apparently.)
But, let's back up a second. What is the glycemic index (GI)? In a sense, not all carbohydrates are created equal, and the GI helps tease out the differences. According to Terry, it's simply a measure that determines how quickly a carbohydrate will affect blood sugar levels. The scale runs from one to 100; a rating of 55 or below is considered a low GI for a food item, 56 to 69 is a "moderate" GI rating, and 70 or more is considered high. A higher rating indicates that the carbohydrates in the food item in question will increase blood sugar levels faster in a set period of time, and ultimately, means that it will be easier to store as fat.
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