Hi, my name is Jessica, and I’m a snacker.

Full disclosure, my favorite snack is usually something sweet before bed. Are you shocked reading this? Do you feel like “I can’t snack, it’s not allowed on my diet” or “I’ll never lose weight if I snack?”

In my teenage/college years, I ignored hunger cues and thought snacking was off limits since I was trying to be “healthy.” When I work with clients, not only do I rarely see any snacks on their food logs, but also a whole lot of meal skipping. People seem to feel victories when they ignore hunger cues or “feel” hungry. This often sets them up for a vicious cycle of starvation then binging or eating a rice cake when what you really wanted was a cupcake — and then eating a half a dozen once you get your hands on some.

This column is not going to tell you to eat some celery if you’re craving chips or drink a glass of water when all you can think about is a cookie.

Instead, I’m hoping to meet you halfway and provide some healthy snack options (both salty and sweet) that satisfy cravings, stave off hunger and provide your body with the nutrition it needs.

If you are a frequent reader of this column, you know I don’t believe in diets. All things in moderation, movement, water, fruit and veggies and healthy options most of the time are things that I can get behind.

Research shows (per the Journal of Nutrition) that healthy snacking throughout the day is one of the best ways to maintain and even lose weight. Snacks that leave you feeling satisfied and with energy to power through your day — aim for around 150 to 250 calories and a healthy mix of protein, fat and carbs — is one of the best tools in leading your best and healthiest life.

WHEN YOU CRAVE CRUNCHY, SALTY

Because I know Americans aren’t eating enough veggies I often recommend celery or carrots with hummus or a natural almond or peanut butter as a snack. Roots (a company out of Asheville, North Carolina) and Hope Hummus are two brands I love. They have simple ingredients and wonderful flavor varieties. Angie’s BOOMCICKAPOP Light Kettle Corn or Sea Salt variety are often found in our pantry as well. Simple ingredients and whole grains make this one worth smuggling into the movie theater.

Almonds or pistachios also make a great snack option. Keep it to a 1 oz serving size; if you’re eating at your desk this will cover a sticky note or about one handful, not spilling over. I’ll often pair a serving of nuts with either a mini Babybell cheese wheel or a piece of fruit.

WHEN ON-THE-GO OR ONLY

A BAR WILL DO

I get a lot of questions about protein or nutrition bars. The market seems to be flooded, and I will say that even though the selection is wide, it’s not great.

Kind makes some great varieties, just keep an eye out on sugar content as some are great and some are quite high. The Dark Chocolate, Nut and Sea Salt one has only 5 grams of sugar, making it a great choice.

Anyone who has ever peeked inside my purse knows there is always a Larabar in there. The Larabar never has more than nine ingredients, and my personal favorite, the lemon one, has only six. If you find it hard to meet your daily requirement of fruit and veggies these bars offer a half cup of fruit per bar.

I’ll also throw in an RXBAR from time to time. I will warn these are a little chewy, but again have a short list of easy-to-pronounce ingredients and a hearty serving of protein to make these a pretty convenient option. My personal favorite is the Chocolate Sea Salt.

WHEN ALL YOU CAN THINK

ABOUT IS ICE CREAM

Ice cream is a Barnett household staple. Portion control and wholesome ingredients without sacrificing taste are my top priorities.

So Delicious brand makes mini ice cream sandwiches. These are made with coconut milk and take away temptation by already being pre-portioned.

Ben and Jerry’s recently came out with a lightened-up version of their decadent treat, Moo-phoria Light Ice Cream. While it is “lightened up” (less sugar and fewer calories), stick to the recommended half cup serving, not the pint.

Another favorite of mine is to make “nice” cream: slice up a banana, stick in the freezer then throw into a food processor, add in some dark chocolate chips and a teaspoon of either almond or peanut butter and you’ve got a healthy treat combining fruit, healthy fat and some dark chocolate!

You’ll notice I don’t recommend the trendy Halo Top or Arctic Zero brands. To me they taste like ice and not anything like ice cream, thus doing nothing for my craving. You also know my take on things that have a long list of hard to pronounce ingredients: steer clear.

WHEN YOU NEED CHOCOLATE

You know dark chocolate is healthy: antioxidants, probiotics, chocolate — need I say more. But what if you’re unsure of what kind?

I’m going to highlight a few of the ones I like and buy on repeat. I like mine straight from the freezer, and remember portion control — three or four squares, not the whole bar!

First, try to aim for at least 70 percent cacao. If you aren’t used to the taste of dark chocolate, this might take some getting used to, but I promise choosing a bar higher in cacao lets you reap more health benefits and aids in portion control because the taste is stronger than milk chocolate.

Theo Salted Almond 70 percent Dark is a favorite; I know Ingles and Publix locations in Greeneville carry this brand. Not only do you get dark chocolate and some almonds giving you healthy fat, but there’s also a hint of salt, giving you that satisfying sweet and salty flavor.

Endangered Species makes a yummy 72 percent and mint variety, and Green and Blacks has an 85 percent bar for experienced dark chocolate consumers.

ENERGY BITES

One of my favorite snacks is one I whip up at home. I love to make healthy treats. If you know me or have worked with me, you know I love energy bites, and it is a treat I make often for myself and clients.

My ingredients vary based on what I find in my pantry, but the base of nuts and dates is a given. I’m including one of my favorite recipes below. I hope you give these a try.

If you do, I’d love to hear what you think.

COFFEE-FLAVORED ENERGY BITES

This recipe is modified from a favorite blog, “A Foodie Stays Fit.”

15 dates with pits removed

½ cup almond butter or natural peanut butter

2 tablespoons flavored ground coffee (I like a mocha or raspberry flavored, but the choice is yours)

1 cup walnut halves or nut of your choice, plain, not salted (almonds or cashews also work great)

2 tablespoons protein powder, optional

½ teaspoon sea salt (omit if nut butter is salted)

Note: you can omit protein powder, but I use Amazing Grass Kidz Superfood Outrageous Chocolate because I put it in my daughter’s smoothie from time to time. I also prefer a plant-based protein powder and hope you do too.

To make: combine all ingredients in a food processor. Form into 1-inch balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. This recipe makes around twenty eight bites.

I’ll often make a batch and throw half in the freezer to enjoy the following week. Some people like the texture frozen but I enjoy them straight from the fridge. Two or three of these make a great afternoon snack!

Jessica Barnett is a Southwest Virginia girl married to a Greeneville native, a mom, personal trainer, certified fitness nutrition specialist, runner, herbivore and ice cream lover. Love Your Health is published every other Wednesday in Lifestyles Accent.