Sometime between running around the playground chased by your mother, a bottle of sunscreen and a bag of goldfish and now, snacking’s gone from being a mandate to a naughty little word. Maybe because it happens during non-meal times, it implies that you’re eating when you’re supposed to be doing more productive things. (Grazing on the other hand, means that you’re so above actual meals that you’re allow to eat bits throughout the day and no one’s going to say squat.)
Well, we all know that between responding to emails, schlepping the kids to school, squeezing in a spinning class and presenting to the CEO, sometimes real meals are a bit fleeting. Snacks matter! They get us through. Don’t abuse them. In fact, you’ll find if you follow even a few of these tips from our resident health experts (and by that I mean, me), you’ll enjoy increased energy levels, minimal weight fluctuation and better overall health, even though you’re eating during off hours.
Fall Back on Fruit: Sure some fruits are higher in sugar than others, but overall if you eat a piece of fruit when you’ve been hit with hunger pangs, it’s all good. Packaged naturally in its own skin, a raw apple, banana or orange can go just about anywhere with you. Dried fruits like cranberries, apples or mango can fill that craving for sweets without taking the express bus to Candyland. These Turkish Mini Figs by Fruit Bliss are a perfect fruit fix for your sweet tooth.
Go Nuts When You Can: Raw or dry roasted and unsalted are the healthiest choices, but for those that want all the protein power with some serious flavor to boot, just a little salt makes all the difference. I’m crazy for Bobalu In-Shell Almonds right now because I’ve always loved picking apart pistachios and these offer one more delicious alternative for my fidgety fingers.
Get Seedy: Like nuts, seeds are full of protein, making them the perfect pick-me-up. That said, watch out for sunflower seed snacks that are overly salted or flavored with artificial ingredients. Instead go for Organic BBQ Seasoned Raw Pumpkin Seeds by Skout or try Sea Salt Somersaults. Just a small handful of either has exactly what you need to keep you going without all sorts of bad stuff to weigh you down.
Know Your Sugar, Mama: Too much sugar is bad news, but that doesn’t mean all sugar should be eliminated. In fact, sugar naturally occurs in many healthy foods including fruits, vegetables and milk and those are all great snack foods. Just try to avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup, in favor of those with no added sugar. In addition, remember to differentiate between natural and artificial sweeteners and go for the sensible choice.
Try for the Big O: Organic is not a remedy for everything, but it is an indicator that a particular snack or food has been produced with your health in mind. Organic products have not been in contact with pesticides and artificial ingredients and must pass through a rigorous certification process. This means when you buy organic, you don’t have to worry about chowing down on free radicals that may somehow unleash themselves on your unsuspecting cells.
Say “Yes” to “No”: Look for a couple of “no”s on the package. No artificial colors, No artificial flavors, No added sugar, Non-GMO. All of these things add up to a more natural eating experience. With great choices like crispy coconut, mango, pineapple or beet root, Natural Sins Crispy Baked Fruit does a great job of making “going without” the most desirable choice.
Make Size Matter: Get a little bowl/plate/cup whatever. Just fill it and don’t eat out of the bag. Yes, we can all eat a pint of ice cream if we sit down with a package of Ben & Jerry’s. But does that mean we should? No. If you scoop out enough for one, chances are you’ll be satisfied in the end (and healthier on top of that).
Think About Your Drinks: O.k. seriously, the soda has got to go. I’m sorry to tell you, but those calories are adding up faster than last month’s credit card bill and they just aren’t worth it! Alcohol is slightly better, but you’re still inhaling some serious sugar. (Though is it so bad if you can’t remember in the morning?) Pour yourself a tall glass of water instead. Too boring? Go bubbly with a squeeze of lemon or lime. Black coffee or tea like Heart Tee by Wild Hibiscus Flower Company are great with sweet or savory snacks.
Give it a Rest: When the rest of the world is sleeping, so should your snacks. Don’t even step into your kitchen past 10 o’clock, because you have no time to burn calories before you hit the hay. Unless you are truly about to starve, you’re better off treating yourself to a hearty breakfast. Still snacking at midnight? It’s time for a wake up call.
Pop Til You Drop:
It used to be that the only air-popped snack was popcorn. Not at all anymore. Popped snacks like Sea Salt Cassava Pops and Oogies Kettle Corn are lower in fats and calories than fried chips. Truth be told, I don’t find them very filling on their own. Paired with some guac or Spinach Dip by Desert Gardens Chili and Spice Company, you’ve got yourself an awesome twosome.
Fit in Some Fat:
There are bad fats, like saturated and trans fats, and good fats, like monounsaturated fats found in olives, avocados, almonds and olive oil. Not only are monounsaturated fats great for your skin, heart health and nervous system, but they fill you up. Snack on foods like green olives and you’ll soon be full enough to make it to your next real meal–if you ever have the time for that one!
What’s your secret to healthy snacking? Tell us in the comments below.