So often, people comment that snacks are unhealthy and contribute to weight gain. Thankfully, it is quite the opposite! Snacks allow us to get through our busy days without feeling that awful blood sugar crash, and they can help us to get more nutrients into our bodies. The kicker is choosing the right snacks to fuel us. If one is choosing potato chips, candy bars, cookies, and the like, then yes, the snacks will only supply empty calories. Empty calories are ones that do not provide any nutrition – foods that we often deem as junk. When incorporating snacks into the day, it’s important to consume slightly smaller main meals to spread out the calories rather than adding extra. This follows the act of grazing, so eating five to six smaller meals rather than the typical three. Sweet, savory, or a combination – there really are countless mixtures to keep things interesting! I wanted to share some of my favorite products and combinations to hopefully jump start more ideas.
First up is dairy. In my opinion, Greek yogurt is the ultimate when it comes to yogurt. It’s thick, rich, and can easily hold various toppings, such as fruit, nuts, seeds, and granola. More times than not, I choose plain so that I can flavor and/or sweeten it how I choose. There are, however, wonderful flavored yogurts on the market that do not compromise health. I have found Fage to be superior, so I always stock up on their plain quarts. Siggi’s is Icelandic-style yogurt that is only lightly sweetened. One of my favorites is their orange ginger. It actually has pieces of crystallized ginger throughout, and for a ginger fanatic such as myself, it is perfect! Yogurt is great on it’s own, but I usually do add nuts or nut butter to provide some additional protein. TJ’s actually carries a pb&j yogurt that is quite amazing.
As far as dairy fat, just choose what you enjoy. I love having a variety from nonfat to full-fat, bearing in my mind the rest of my intake for the day. ’tis all about that balance. Research continues to examine the pros and cons behind dairy fat, and so I have maintained an open mind and willingness to continue to improve my diet. Along that same line of thought, lets talk about cheese, shall we? Fat-free “cheese” is not cheese. Cheese is meant to contain fat – it’s part of what makes it so delicious. Low-fat in certain instances is a wonderful choice, but quality is of utmost importance. Sharp cheddar is going to be way more satisfying than processed American cheese or fat-free mild cheddar. Please do yourself a favor and never purchase fat free again. The stronger the cheese, the less you will need to consume of it. Mind your serving size to 1 or 1.5 oz and include a carbohydrate, such as whole grain crackers or fresh or dried fruit for the perfect balance of carbs, fat, and protein.
I don’t quite know when it happened, but hummus has become a star in the food world. It can hold it’s own or be added to a multitude of other foods to transform a dish. To keep it simple, hummus and whole grain pita chips or tortilla chips is a satisfying salty, savory snack. Additionally, it can be used as a dip for vegetables, and for a twist on the classic, it can be mixed with guacamole. Some of my favorite brands are Sabra, Athenos, Eat Well Embrace Life, and our regional brand Roots. But don’t stop there. Try any brand or flavor that strikes your fancy! Fruit always makes the best snack.
Fresh fruit comes in its own container, so to speak, making it the easiest food on-the-go. Dried fruit is just as great, but because the fruit has been concentrated, a smaller portion is advised. So 1/2 c fresh fruit is equal to 1/4 c dried fruit. Make your own trail mix and go ahead and pre-portion into individual containers or try blends found in the market. TJ’s has some awesome flavors, so you could always try it first then replicate it later to your specific preferences. In regards to cereal and other trail mix bars, stick with ones that have the fewest, recognizable ingredients. Lärabar and Kind Bar are perfect examples.
Lastly, nuts and seeds are chockfull of nutrition and are a great addition to any of the foods discussed above. My biggest advice is to choose nut butters without hydrogenated oils or filler ingredients. Truly natural peanut butter and the like are ground nuts and salt. They require stirring to incorporate the natural oils and then refrigerated to prevent them from going rancid. However, I will say ours never lasts long enough to spoil. 🙂 Justin’s carries flavored nut butters, such as maple almond and chocolate hazelnut that are incredible. They’re sold in jars or in to-go packets. Definitely branch out and discover all that the market has to offer!
Now that snacks no longer have a bad rap, always remember to keep them on hand because you never know when hunger will strike without food around. Happy snacking!
**All opinions are my own.