Whether it’s the cold weather stirring up your appetite or the comfort of munching on something when there’s not much else to do, wintertime seems to be prime time for snacking. But fear not! Snacking, if approached smartly, can be part of a healthy diet. The key is to think of snacking in a positive light, as a bridge to provide energy, satiety and nutrition between meals, rather than as an unhealthy treat to be snuck in when no one’s looking. After all, shivering does burn calories so we might as well replenish them with healthy snacks!
Take care of what your body needs and give some thought ahead of time to what you want to snack on, instead of waiting until you are hungry to raid the fridge or vending machine. Here are some tips from our Registered Dietitian Lea to help you keep healthy snacks on hand:
1) Americans generally eat too many empty carbs for snacks. Switching out regular potato chips for healthier whole grain versions will give you that same munching satisfaction and add some healthy nutrients to your diet at the same time. These days it seems like you can find chips made of almost anything – some great options are chips made from veggies (kale, sweet potatoes), quinoa, beans, egg whites, and seeds. The key is finding some that are yummy too!
2) Snacks that are high in protein, healthy fats and fiber will keep you satisfied for longer. Quinoa chips, any type of meat jerky (every tried lamb jerky?), nuts and seeds all provide a combination of protein, fat and some carbs that will give you energy short-term and hold you over until your next meal.
3) Apples and other fruits harvested in the fall can be made into super healthy snacks. Dried fruit also contains healthy nutrients as fresh fruit but is much higher in sugar and calories cup for cup since the water has been extracted. Here’s an idea: bake or broil an apple or pear (either whole or sliced) with a small amount of coconut sugar or maple sugar, then toss with nuts and yogurt. Or try Barnana dried banana snacks. Talk about comfort food!
5) Popcorn is naturally a whole grain and is a great source of fiber, antioxidants and polyphenols. However, some microwave popcorns contain unhealthy fat blends and artificial flavors, so try to go for non-GMO brands with not a lot of ingredients.
6) Hot cocoa is a winter favorite and is normally loaded with fat and sugar. But you can make your own healthy version using dark chocolate powder, a healthier sugar like coconut sugar, maple syrup, or raw honey and almond or rice milk.
7) They’re quick. They’re easy. They’re energy bars! Choose bars that are made mainly from fruits, nuts and whole foods with not too much added sugar or saturated fat. KIND bars are a good option that are available at most grocery stores.
8) Ants on a log – this one is great for kids (and let’s face it, for adults too). Pieces of celery filled with a nut butter with ants (raisins) marching down the middle! The celery and raisins contain antioxidants, and the nut butter provides healthy fats for energy!
Whatever you choose for your in between meal snacks, make it filling, satisfying, fun and nutritious. Make snacks part of your healthy meal plan, not “in addition”, and you’ll be more energized, healthier and happier!
Lea Basch is a registered dietitian and has been in the nutrition industry for over 30 years, most of which she spent at Longmont United Hospital in Boulder, Colorado, where she was one of the founders of the facility’s nutrition program. Longmont’s Planetree philosophy of caring for the body, mind and spirit of patients is very much in line with Lea’s interest in both traditional and alternative therapies for treating chronic illnesses. Gluten-intolerant herself, Lea now focuses much of her time on the latest research and issues relating to gluten-free diets and other food intolerances. She is a diabetes educator and is a Registered Dietitian with the American Dietetic Association. Lea’s lifelong passion has been combining the science of nutrition with the heart that it takes to change lifelong habits.
Lea received her BS and MS in Nutrition and Dietetics at Florida International University and BA in Education at University of Florida. Ask Lea your nutrition questions at Lea@tastefulpantry.com