What does this play on the famous words of US President Teddy Roosevelt—”Speak softly, and carry a big stick”— have to do with your new low-carb life? Everything! That adage, an analogy to diplomacy backed by US power (not necessarily endorsed here), was informed by Roosevelt’s guiding principle of “intelligent forethought” and “decisive action” in advance of crises—a principle that can also describe the approach of eating softly and carrying a big snack. If you cut the size of your meals in half and pack effective snacks in decent quantity, you too can avert the (relative) crisis of being too ravenous, compromising your diet and overloading your system.

Prediabetes is often an impetus for rethinking the ratios of large ‘meals’ vs. small ‘snacks.’ I used to hate the idea of forethought regarding food (outside of entertaining), preferring to have large meals and then not eat for half a day and/or grabbing whatever was convenient and tasted good in the moment. At the time, it seemed like an efficient way to go. But, like an engine that runs best on small doses of high-quality fuel, my body eventually told me: don’t save time spent on eating, make time to spend on eating.

Now, I eat frequent small meals and avoid getting too hungry as an essential part of my low-carb lifestyle. I often consume two breakfasts before lunch, and have five to six mini-meals a day. Not only is this better in terms of blood sugar fluctuations, but I no longer get lightheaded, plow through unhealthy food choices or over-fuel. Whereas I once opted for the easy, inexpensive, most portable option (with the least packaging—it’s also not easy being green!) such as a bagel and a banana during the morning commute, I now feel the rub of an unplanned quick bite, which often comes down to the choice between an overpriced, underwhelming salad, or a cheap mega slice of pizza.

With the right snack by your side, you’ll feel healthy and on track, and be able to eat half what you used to at mealtime, including at those long, multi course dinners with friends—making snack planning seem painless. I recommend foolproof snacks that travel well, don’t explode or slow drip into your belongings (critical) and sticky/stink them up and that together can serve as a meal. An Essential Six to Match and Mix: 1) An avocado, eaten in its entirety like the fruit that it is (with a pinch of salt) or with the next two items 2) Hard boiled eggs, paired with the avocado or with 3) Cheese (regular or vegan), which compliments the first two items and can also be enjoyed with…3) One small, firm, tart apple—also tasty when combined with 4) Nuts, nuts, and nuts—which go so well  with… 5) an energy bar that is not filled with sugar and starches. And then there’s the 6) Dried beans (edamame, broad bean, chickpea) that offer back-up in the protein department.

Caveat: This list is glaringly devoid of vegetables—crudités fill the gap perfectly, especially sturdy ones without dips (or, if you dare diversifying your snacks via portable containers, more power to you…I’ve yet to find a leak-proof system). This selection may also seem smallish, especially for those of us who thrive on variety, but if you consider these essentials as body fuel boosts that stave off real hunger, they’ll be the gifts that keep on giving.