All those fad diets that tell you to eat a shake for lunch or a diet bar for a snack, or that snacking is synonymous with weight gain, aren’t taking into account that on the road to cutting back it is still important to feed your whole body. Think about what nutrients are you getting in those shakes? What phytonutrients (remember “Eat Your Colors“) are in those diet bars? Wherever you work, whether at a desk job or doing intense manual labor, it’s important to refuel throughout the day.
Today it is so easy to find quick and convenient options in vending machines and gas stations that are tempting. Food is everywhere and it is convenient, but just like your car needs the proper fuel to run, so does your body.
Think of snacking as way to make up for missing nutrients you may not have time to get during your busy day, which in America is a pretty common phenomenon. Simply by taking a quick snack break, you will be better able to concentrate on your work. And you’ll be less likely to overeat when it comes time for lunch or dinner.
These missing nutrients are mainly vitamins and minerals, which are found in fruits and vegetables, so make sure your snacks are full of colorful fruits and veggies. Choose whole grain crackers and breads instead of the refined versions, which are missing most of the B vitamins and protein. If you do buy prepackaged items, remember to read your food labels. If you don’t recognize, or can’t pronounce, most of the ingredients then it probably isn’t good for you. Stockpile healthy snacks in your pantry, and place fruit bowls around your house to make it convenient for you and your family to make healthy food choices. Pre-cut veggies during the weekend and place them in plastic zip-loc bags for easy chomping or toting to work or school.
What makes a good snack? A good snack is nutrient dense. That means that each bite contributes to the intake of healthy foods. Six types of nutrients are needed to maintain a growing and healthy body: carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals, vitamins, and water.
Try to create “power snacks,” by making food combinations with at least two food groups in one snack. For example, instead of just snacking on carrots and apples, try dipping them in peanut butter. You get the vitamins and minerals in the carrots and apples, plus protein from the peanuts.
The following are all very quick an easy snacks that are as tasty as they are nutritious:
Celery Logs — Filled with peanut butter or cream cheese, with raisins
Cut Vegetables with Dip — Use carrots, celery, cucumbers, radishes, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, etc. Dips can be made with nonfat plain yogurt or cottage cheese rather than sour cream, and mixed with ranch dressing or dry soup mix. Dipping in hummus is another great option.
Apple Slices with peanut butter or cheese — Make sure to avoid processed cheese.
Canned or fresh fruit — Add frozen yogurt and granola for extra flavor and texture.
Fruit Salad — Mix together sliced fresh fruit. Then take plain or vanilla yogurt and mix with a little honey or syrup. Stir into fruit. Keep refrigerated.
Toast or rice cakes with peanut butter and banana.
Fruit smoothies — In a blender combine fresh or frozen fruit (bananas, berries, peaches), milk or yogurt or soymilk, and ice. You can also add juice to the mix.
Tortillas — With cream cheese and sliced veggies, rolled up and sliced. With sliced, cheese heated in oven and sliced. Dipped into salsa or ketchup.
Mini muffins — Make a batch of berry or banana muffins and freeze them to take out for a quick snack.
Cracker Pizzas — Put a splash of tomato sauce and mozzarella or cheddar cheese. Bake until cheese melts. Can be made with English muffins.
Crunchy Banana Boats — Slice banana in half length-wise. Spread with cream cheese or peanut butter. Top with granola or nuts.
Yogurt — Add in fresh fruit, nuts, applesauce. Try low fat plain or vanilla yogurt — many flavored yogurts sneak in lots of sugar, so check the label carefully.
Cottage Cheese — Add in fresh fruit, nuts, veggies. Great with bananas and almonds.
Nuts — Best in small quantities and unsalted.
Pudding — Make your own with low-fat ingredients for a healthy version.
Stay tuned next week for a few healthy snack recipes. In the meantime, happy snacking!