Eating snacks is something many of us do regularly. Snacks have become a common part of our culture, and for many people, they are a daily occurrence. According to one study from Mintel, 94% of Americans snack at least once daily.
Unfortunately, America’s snack industry is mainly known for foods that are high in fat, salt and/or sugar, such as chips or candy. Some snacks can support your health and provide lasting energy, while others can take a negative toll and leave you with an energy crash not long after you eat them. It’s important to know how to choose the right energy-boosting and healthy snacks to fuel and nourish your body right. I personally try to eat 4 to 5 small meals a day to keep my blood sugar steady. I eat breakfast early around 6 am with a smoothie, oatmeal, or an egg and toast. Mid-morning I can have a snack like whole grain crackers and hummus. I often eat a salad for lunch. Eating small meals keeps me feeling good. When I get tired of say having smoothies, I drop it for a while and try an alternative healthy snack like a low fat trail mix.
It’s important to include a combination of high-fiber carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats with your snacks. Each of these nutrients plays a role in not just giving your body immediate energy, but calories and nutrients that will keep your blood sugar and energy levels level and keep you feeling full until the next eating time. Choose snacks that work for you and that you enjoy. Examples include:
• Healthy trail mix – check out The Healthy Maven‘s post on How to Build a Healthy Trail Mix. You can customize the recipe to meet your needs and tastes. Good quality homemade trail mix, in moderation is 100% part of a healthy diet. This is especially true in those circumstances of high physical activity where you need energy, fast. A good trail mix includes healthy fats and antioxidants from nuts and seeds, quality dried fruit for energy, and the fun tasty stuff. Being healthy doesn’t need to mean sacrificing on fun. It’s based on nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and the optional fun stuff of air popcorn, dark chocolate, pretzels, cereal, or peanut butter chips.
• Whole-food energy balls: Oat energy balls make a quick breakfast with a hot drink, a wonderful lunch, and even a great snack. Around 3 PM when our energy level can drop, a little snack helps keep us going to finish the day.
• Apple or banana paired with natural nut butter – I was impressed with the visual appeal of Gathering Dreams Apple Nachos. This beautiful platter is really just fresh apple slices drizzled with nut butter, but then you garnish with chocolate nibs and nuts. Wow! It makes me want to dive in and is very healthy too.
• Air-popped popcorn: I would avoid buying packets of seasoned popcorn ready to pop in the microwave. They are covered in chemicals and are bad for your lungs. Use plain popcorn with no oil in an air-fryer. An air popper doesn’t require any added oil or flavorings, but store-bought microwave popcorn has additional ingredients, like salt, oil and chemical flavorings that taste like butter. The bags themselves also contain perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which keep oil from seeping through the container. These chemicals make their way into the popped popcorn, leading many to question whether microwave popcorn is healthy. Can you season air popcorn? Simply seasoned popcorn recipes can use a little melted butter, Parmesan cheese, salt, dried oregano and garlic salt. You can also add spice to the mix, like cayenne pepper, smoked paprika or ancho chile powder.
• Yogurt Parfait: When it’s hot, I really don’t even want to think about turning on the stove. How about a cold, fruity parfait for breakfast that can be made ahead of time? One evening you can make parfaits for breakfast, lunch, or snacks and refrigerate them for up to 3 days.
Use small cups for a cookout and set up a tasty yogurt parfait bar.
- Avocado toast: Check out Variations on Lemony Avocado Toast for lots of tasty ideas. The options include ingredients like a fried egg, baby spinach, pickled onion, sriracha sauce, feta or goat cheese, smoked salmon.
• Chia pudding with fruit: Chia seeds are tiny power houses of nutrition. They are high in protein, full of omega-3s, and packed with fiber which helps keep you full and satisfied all day long. Chia pudding is great for breakfast, a snack, or a dessert. Another wonderful thing about chia pudding is it’s so easy to make. Breakfast and snack prep becomes seconds as you spoon some in a dish and add fresh fruit. How hard is that? Cold chia pudding is perfect on hot summer days. It’s a treat like eating dessert!
• Fresh fruit: Nature’s original desserts, naturally sweet fruits are particularly abundant in anti-inflammatory compounds, which are important in protecting our bodies from heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer and bowel disease. Eating at least one-and-a-half to two cups of diverse fruits every day can boost antioxidant activity. One strategy is to eat with the seasons, choosing grapes, watermelon, and stone fruits in the summer, apples and pears in the fall, persimmons and pomegranates in the winter, and citrus and cherries in the spring. Studies have linked increased berry consumption with lower risks of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. You can’t beat that!
For convenience and frugality, I like to keep frozen berries in the freezer year round. Defrost a small bowl for a snack, add to oatmeal, a green salad, chia pudding, yogurt, toast – the options are limitless. I also like to keep a bowl of pineapple chunks in the refrigerator. I buy a quality brand of canned pineapple chunks in their own juice. I eat a small cup of cold pineapple after dinner. It tastes so good, has great health benefits, and aids in digestion naturally.
• Smoothies: Smoothies are the perfect way to add lots of the good stuff to your diet painlessly. I like a handful of baby green spinach in nearly all of my smoothies. If it’s a frozen fruit smoothie, I don’t even taste it. I don’t defrost my berries before adding to a smoothie. A frozen smoothie is great in the summer. Start with a milk of choice or a fruit juice with ice cubes. Check out:
I hope I’ve inspired you to re-think your snacks. Choose a couple to prep for the coming week. One week make yogurt parfaits; another make trail mix or energy balls. Have a happy, healthy summer with lots of tasty snacks!
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