Smart snacking — for at home and on the run!
Feeling a snack attack coming on? You’re not alone. Ninety-four percent of U.S. adults snack at least once a day, according to a recent survey by the International Food Information Council. And while many of us assume that snacking is a no-no when it comes to eating right, noshing between meals can actually mean a healthier diet overall. “If you go more than five hours between meals, a nutritious snack can tide you over so you don’t overeat when you sit down to lunch or dinner,” says Boston-based dietitian Janel Ovrut, MS, RD. Of course, a healthful snack is as tasty as it is practical. Below, healthy snack ideas for the top five places where we’re most likely to get the munchies.
The challenge: Keeping portions under control when a stocked refrigerator is at your fingertips.
The solution: Nutritious snacks you prepare one serving at a time, so there won’t be leftovers to tempt you.
Apple crisp: Chop one medium apple and microwave until soft. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon rolled oats, and cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. The fiber in the apple and oats, and the omega-3s in the walnuts, will decrease your risk of heart disease while helping you feel satisfied.
Steamed edamame: Microwave 3/4 cup ready-to-eat frozen edamame (soybeans) according to package directions. Sprinkle with sea salt. Edamame is packed with protein, helping you feel full for longer than a carbohydrate-rich snack would.
Fruit and cheese plate: Slice one medium pear. Serve with one wedge of Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss. Foods rich in calcium like cheese have been linked with weight loss; low-fat varieties give you the benefits without breaking your calorie budget.
In the Car
The challenge: Finding healthful foods that aren’t a hazard to your driving.
The solution: Simple snacks you can eat one-handed.
Fruit smoothie: Try a crushed fruit drink (with no added sugars) like Fruit2day in flavors like Mango Peach and Pineapple Banana. Each one is loaded with vitamin C, helping to build up your immune system while you’re running errands downtown.
Nuts on the run: Bag up a 2-tablespoon serving of nuts such as almonds or walnuts, or keep an on-the-go canister of unsalted nuts in your car’s console for a quick snack. Eating just a one-ounce serving of nuts five days a week can cut your risk of type 2 diabetes, according to research from the Harvard School of Public Health. Just be sure to look for low- or no-salt nuts to keep heart-unhealthy sodium in check.
Yogurt drink: Sip a grab-and-go yogurt smoothie (look for low- or nonfat varieties) for a dose of healthy bacteria probiotics to help keep your GI tract in good form. Just make sure your choice doesn’t include high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener.
The challenge: Finding a nutritious midday boost that keeps your fingers and desk clean.
The solution: Neat, crumb-free snacks.
Greek goddess: Plain nonfat Greek yogurt such as Chobani or Fage with two chopped figs (fresh or dried), 1 tablespoon pistachios and a drizzle of honey. Greek yogurt is even better for you than regular yogurt, as it’s loaded with more satiating protein and bone-building calcium per ounce .
Oatmeal bowl: Microwave one packet of instant oatmeal with the low- or nonfat milk of your choice (regular, soy, almond, etc.). Instant oats — as well as their rolled and steel-cut cousins — contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber that helps decrease cholesterol levels.
Sweet treat: Eat 1/2 cup of fresh strawberries with a one-ounce piece of 70 percent dark chocolate — you’ll satisfy your sweet tooth and get all the heart health benefits of chocolate without going overboard on portion size (and, as a result, fat and calories).
At the Mall
The challenge: Finding balanced food court options that won’t leave you hankering for Cinnabon.
The solution: First of all, make sure you’ve eaten before you go shopping so you won’t be tempted! But if hunger does strike, satisfy your appetite with small meals instead of snacks—you’ll find more healthful and satiating options.
The small meal:
Soothing soup: Opt for a vegetable-based choice like minestrone or vegetable barley rather than a creamy one — you’ll fill up on fewer calories and less fat, plus you’ll get an extra dose of disease-fighting antioxidants.
Do the deli: Order a half sandwich of sliced turkey breast on whole-grain bread for a protein-rich snack that will help keep those shopping muscles in shape (if your mall’s deli counter won’t do half sandwiches, eat one half and save the rest for tomorrow). Instead of mayo, make mustard your condiment of choice — you’ll save about 100 calories. And don’t forget to pile your sandwich high with veggies like lettuce, tomato, shredded carrots and cucumbers for an extra nutrient boost.
Slimming sushi: A salmon or tuna roll isn’t a huge amount of food, but eating one requires you to sit down and eat slowly — a big help in quelling hunger and making you feel satisfied. Plus, the omega-3s in fish have an anti-inflammatory effect, which research shows can help your heart, your joints and your mood. And if you can find sushi made with brown rice, you’ll get a double dose of good health!
On an Airplane
The challenge: Selecting healthful snacks that can fit in your bag and get through security.
The solution: Choose compact foods that don’t contain liquid (yogurt, peanut butter and hummus can all be no-nos).
Real food bars: The new breed of “energy bars” are made from little more than dried fruit and nuts — a heart-healthy combination that is sure to quell your hunger. LÄRABAR comes in flavors from Peanut Butter Cookie to Chocolate Coconut and can fit in your back pocket. Look for bars with up to around six ingredients, all of which should be real, recognizable foods — think almonds and dates, not soy protein isolate and high-fructose corn syrup.
Make-your-own trail mix: Fill a baggie with a mix of your favorite dried fruit, nuts and whole-grain cereal. Add a few dark chocolate chips to soothe your sweet tooth and get an antioxidant boost.
Nuts with a kick: With flavors such as Chili Lime and Toasted Coconut, Yumnuts Naturals cashews will make you feel like you’re in an exotic land even if you’re delayed in terminal A. They’re lightly dusted with flavor rather than doused — so you get the health benefits of nuts, which research shows can help prevent weight gain — without the added sugar and calories of other dressed-up nut products.