Welcome to your 50s. If you haven’t already, it’s time to stop snacking like a teenager and start snacking on grown-up foods that you’ll quickly find are just as tasty and will make you feel (and maybe even look) a lot younger. That means finding substitutes for the unhealthy choices like cheese puffs, potato chips, and other highly processed foods that load you up with simple carbs, calories, and added sugars, and may negatively impact your health.
Think of snack time as an opportunity to do something positive for your body. “Snacks give us a chance to eat foods and nutrients that aren’t always included during mealtime, like nuts and fruit,” says Eatthis.com medical review board member Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “Snacks can help prevent nutritional gaps as long as you include nutrient-dense foods on your snack plate.”
Numerous studies suggest that eating healthy snacks can be an effective way to control your appetite and cravings, which could result in avoiding weight gain. But when you consider that the USDA estimates nearly one-third of a person’s daily calories come from snacks, it’s clear how important your choice of snack becomes.
Even nutritious snacks can pack on pounds if you eat too many, so get into the habit of practicing portion control by knowing the calories in the foods you choose. That way you won’t unwittingly overeat or ruin your appetite for dinner. A good rule of thumb for a reasonable snack size is 150 to 250 calories, according to The Nutrition Source at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. For perspective, that’s about the amount you’ll get in string cheese with 6 whole grain crackers.
It’s a good practice to have some protein with every meal, and that includes snacks because protein is hunger-satisfying, keeping you feeling full between meals. That means you’ll be less likely to crave sugary carbohydrates and overeat because you’re ravenous.
And there are more benefits to this satiating macronutrient after 50: “High-quality protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass as we age and thus helping keep us strong and agile,” says Eatthis.com medical review board member Amy Goodson, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook.
Try to get 25 to 30 grams of protein in your snacks, which is the amount you should shoot for at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Goodson says some examples of the best snacks for the over-busy, over-50-year-old are Greek yogurt parfaits, natural peanut butter and celery sticks, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, cheese, milk, turkey roll-ups, seeds, and trail mix.
Smoothies made with whey or a plant-based protein powder are terrific as meal replacements or snacks. Just be sure to practice portion control. Adding fruit, nut butters, and other ingredients to your smoothie can turn it into a calorie bomb. Even though it’s a drink snack, keep the calories to the recommended 150- to 250-calorie portion size.
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If you’re in your 50s, you’re probably concerned about reducing your risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. In that case, you’ll want to include milk and dairy foods in your mix of healthy snacks; their unique nutrient makeup has been linked to reduced risk of these chronic diseases, says medical board advisor Toby Amidor, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and best-selling author of Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook.
“Milk is the leading food source of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, three nutrients of public health concern that were identified by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” Amidor says. “These nutrients are lacking in diets at every life stage, including both men and women in their 50s.”
Three servings from this food group are recommended per day. Incorporating them into snacks can help you easily achieve that goal. Amidor recommends trying these snack ideas: Peanut Butter Cherry Smoothies made with milk, Strawberry-Kiwi Yogurt Parfaits made with Greek yogurt, or a snack pack of Honey Ricotta with Strawberries.
Prunes. Before you roll your eyes and tell us you’re not constipated, get this: prunes are very good for your bones, something that the 50-something snacker should recognize. “Bone health becomes incredibly important to focus on as you age, regardless of your gender, because with age, we can experience bone loss, which can increase our risk of fractures,” explains Manaker, author of The First-Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook. “Prunes are a natural source of boron, magnesium, and other bone health-supporting nutrients.”