I love snacking. Whether it be post-workout, mid-afternoon or
every now and then late-night, I love any chance to eat extra food especially in snack form. Unfortunately though, most of the food on the snack aisle and in our pantries is over-processed, sugary, not-so-good-for you packaged goods. There is no reason to completely cut out snacking (even if it is that midnight snack); however, to better care for and fuel your body, it is important to know what you are putting into it. Eating healthier foods can certainly energize you and make your whole body feel great! Try these 10 ideas next time you want to reach for that handful of greasy potato chips…
- Veggies and Dip
As a kid you were probably told to eat your vegetables and at the time it seemed like the worst possible thing ever. Well, vegetables are still just as important, but now they can easily be turned into a delicious snack! Try dipping cut up vegetables, such as broccoli, bell pepper, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber into either hummus or guacamole for an insanely delicious and nutritious deal! One of my favorite things is Wholly Guacamole individual 100 calorie packs because they really pack the flavor punch without being overly high in calories. Plus, avocado is really, really good for you and your body. Hummus also adds a bit of protein to your snack to keep you full until your next meal. Or perhaps just raw veggies is more your style…go for it! To help prepare, cut up a bunch of veggies at the beginning of the week (say Sunday?) when you have time so that they are easily reachable to munch on when your stomach begins to grumble!
Fruits contain many vitamins, minerals and fiber, which helps keep you feeling fuller longer. This is why it is always a good idea to have an assortment of fruits on hand to snack on. Try cutting up apple, orange, nectarine, peach or pear slices, munching on some grapes, or making a fruit salad with bananas, apples, and a mixture of berries. If you want to enhance your fruit, try making a healthy fruit dip. One of my favorite things to do is melt peanut butter and mix it into plain low-fat Greek yogurt. This makes the perfect dip for apples or bananas. Check out your local farmer’s or super market to find out what fruits are ripe, in-season, and waiting for you!
3. Nut Butters
Nut butters are a healthy fat that should be included into any healthy eating plan. The good news too is that there are lots of different kinds out there-anywhere from peanut butter to almond butter to cashew butter…the options are almost endless! Spread peanut butter on celery with raisins and make a good ol’ fashioned ants on a log, top a piece of whole wheat toast with your choice of nut butter, dip fruit into it, or heck go ahead and eat a plain spoonful of it, no one’s judging! We’re probably all guilty of doing that at some point…I know I am!
No, oatmeal is not just a morning breakfast item. In fact, it can make a very tasty, and filling, morning or afternoon snack. Try to stay away from buying the prepackaged oatmeal which can have non-nutritional added ingredients not to mention a high sugar content. Instead, make oatmeal using the rolled oats (what comes in the canisters) and adding your own toppings to control the amount of sugar. Even with making your own be careful of the amount of brown sugar, syrup, honey, etc. that you put in-it’s even better to add fresh fruit for the sweet taste instead of sweeteners. Some examples are adding fresh berries or orange slices to the top, stirring in peanut butter (yum!) and topping with a banana or mixing in Greek yogurt, fruit and a dash of cinnamon. Sometimes convenience is necessary however, so when buying oatmeal in the to-go cups make sure you check the nutrition label for the ingredients (should be minimal and no added corn syrup, oils, sugar, etc) and check that the sugar content is low (below 10 g).
Nuts are super healthy for you and can be a very easy, portable and delicious snack for on the go. *However, watch out for portion size because the calories and fats, although good fats, can easily add up.* Nuts can be great in trail mix, by themselves, or mixed into foods such as yogurt and oatmeal. Instead of buying trail mix, make your own with an assortment of nuts, seeds and raisins (yes, sadly, that means leaving out the chocolate candies, BUT it also means more room for deliciously nutritious nuts!). Even a handful of almonds or walnuts work perfectly as snack too. Here is a link to the many health benefits of nuts and which kinds are the best for you.
6. Whole-Grain/Whole-Wheat Crackers
Although crackers may get a bad rap, they can be a great snack depending on a) what kind and b) what you pair with them. When looking at the ingredients list, look for the words Whole Wheat or 100% Whole Wheat. If it says “enriched, unbleached wheat” or anything like that, I hate to break it to you, but its not actually whole wheat (think pretzels, goldfish, cheez-its, etc.) Also, look for a small ingredient list: basically if it is packaged and has 30 ingredients, it’s not your healthiest choice. Some examples of good, nutritious crackers are Triscuits, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Kashi Pita Chips (or make your own pita chips for even better snack!), Blue Diamond Nut Thins, any brand’s brown rice crackers, black bean chips and kale chips. Try dipping the crackers in hummus or guacamole or pairing them with some lunch meat and cheese to add some protein to your snack!
7. Greek Yogurt
Greek Yogurt has become a big trend over the last 5-6 years and for a good reason! It typically has less sugar, less fat and more protein-all which makes for an absolutely delicious and nutritious snack. As was the case for the oatmeal, try to stay away from the flavored yogurts; instead gearing more towards the plain and adding in your own sweetness and flavoring. Excellent add-ins are healthy granola, fruit, nuts, or a dash of cinnamon or honey. If you do get flavored, check the ingredient list again for those added sugars (cane juice, any ‘syrup’, honey, etc.). Some of my favorite brands are Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt and Oikos Triple Zero Plain Greek Yogurt…but taste-test around and find the yogurt and toppings that work and taste the best for you!
Again, eggs are not just a “for-breakfast” item and can be incorporated into a healthy snacking plan. Eggs provide a good source of protein as well as many of your daily vitamins and nutrients needed. And while it may not always be possible to whip yourself up an egg or two in the middle of the day, hard-boiling eggs for the week certainly can be done. If hard-boiled isn’t your thing you can try soft-boiled eggs too. Or if possible, such as for a post-workout snack, whip yourself up a vegetable omelet or scrambled eggs. However you eat them, eggs are a great snack to have.
One of the great things about smoothies, besides their nutrition and health benefits of course, is that there are so many different possibilities to mix in and change up your afternoon snack! If at work or school, you don’t need a full-on blender either, a magic bullet works perfectly fine. Some examples of good things to add to your smoothies are frozen or fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, almond milk, nuts or nut butters, spinach or kale…the list goes on and on! You can even add 1/2 a scoop of protein powder or some chia seeds to increase the nutritional value of the smoothie! Avoid going the easy way and buying yourself a smoothie at a fast food or smoothie place though, especially without checking the nutrition labels. Some places do have healthy smoothies; however, most smoothies you’ll find will be filled with sugar and other non-nutritional ingredients. But whenever making a smoothie at home (or work or school) is so easy, healthy and delicious, why wouldn’t you go with that option?
10. 1/2 a Sandwich
Last, but certainly not least, the simple half a sandwich can be a filling afternoon hunger-buster! Make sure you are using whole wheat bread (again look for whole wheat or 100% whole wheat…none of that enriched stuff) for your sandwich and then be creative with your add-ons! Try a peanut butter and jelly (easy on the jelly due to its high-sugar content) sandwich, peanut butter and banana sandwich, turkey, roast beef, or chicken sandwich. Top the meat sandwiches with veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, onion and cucumber…or go straight for the complete veggie sandwich! Or ditch the bread if you prefer and use a lettuce wrap or wrap lunch meat around a cheese stick or slices of cheese. Any combination of these will provide you a filling and healthy snack option!
So there you have it! Snacking doesn’t have to be so bad or complicated, and in fact, it can be fun and delicious too! What’s your favorite healthy snack that keeps you going?