‘Healthy’ is often at the center of what we want for ourselves, families and community. What ‘healthy’ is can have loads of various meanings and perspectives. Yet I’ll do my best in our time together to present topics that can be considered just that. Healthy.
Snacking can often be necessary to keep our energy, mood and efficiency strong. To have a smooth running metabolism and optimal gut health, we want to eat something every 3 - 4 hours or so after you’ve eaten your first meal of the day and stop eating 3 hours before bed, fasting through the night and into the morning. In fact, performing intermittent fasting (times of 12 hours or longer without eating, think 8pm - 8am) is critically important to not only gut health, but better sleep, increased immunity and weight management. But once you’ve broken the fast, gaps of longer than 4 hours without eating something throughout the day are not ideal. This often increases hunger and leads to overeating at the following meal.
Well now it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and you are hungry...maybe even getting a bit hangry 😳. You want that perfect snack to get you back up and avoid becoming overly hungry in the following few hours. These decisions count. Make a poor choice and you may be veering off course towards aspirations of dropping a waist size, minimizing your sugar intake and just simply feeling your best. Having a game plan of healthy snack options is the secret to success.
Let me take you through some ‘healthy’ snack slooth skills that successful eaters use to make their best decisions.
Fresh Foods, Whole Foods & Processed Foods:
Hands down, the best options for promoting health are always fresh, whole foods (think fruits, veggies, nuts, meats). The more you can stick to these options the better your choice, period. Weight Watchers has long had a point system that helps their clients make informed decisions on which foods are best to eat. They allot zero points to fresh fruits and veggies.
Think this way. Nutrient dense is always the top option.
With whole foods, we are simply trying to look at the ingredient label at the bottom of the nutrition facts and find ingredients you are familiar with. For carb heavy products like breads, tortillas, rice, etc. we want to see the first ingredient to be ‘Whole’ not ‘Refined’ or ‘Enriched.’ ‘Whole’ products contain more fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which are all meaningfully important to improve the benefits of the food absorption and disbursement in the body.
Highly processed, packaged foods contain a number of additives to preserve the item long past when nature intended for it to spoil and carry a variety of chemicals and chemically altered compounds added to these same foods. All these additives and preservatives add up over time in the body, increasing inflammation. Inflammation is an absolute killer of health! It’s the number one stressor of the body with potential to weaken immune systems, imbalance hormone levels and speed up the aging process.
Sugars, Trans Fats & Portion Control:
Remember, if buying packaged items, look on the nutrition labels and see what a portion in this product actually is. The portions are located at the top of the Nutrition Facts label. This is important when looking at the sugars (especially added sugars) and the trans fats of a product. Try to keep both of these to a minimum. That doesn’t mean completely free of these because in all honesty, good luck with that. But being mindful of this will put you in a better position to keep eating foods of higher nutritional quality.
…So let’s get some actual snack ideas already!
Fresh Items Snacks Wins:
- Tomatoes & Cucumbers sliced with feta & balsamic
- Grapes (frozen is always a fun treat kids & adults alike)
- Edamame (steamed with some sesame seed oil drizzled on top)
- Jicama with chili salt on top
Hummus, Tzatziki or my Favorite Dip… Bitchin Sauce with:
- Baby carrots
- Small sweet peppers
- Sliced bell peppers
- Sugar snap peas
- Raw broccoli or cauliflower
- Celery (also great with almond or peanut butter and raisins)
- Watermelon Slices
- Apple Slices with Almond or Peanut Butter
- Orange Slices or Cuties
- Pear Slices
Healthier Packaged Food Wins:
I know I know. Everything you hear says to stay away from the processed and packaged, even me right up above. But we live in a real world with real limitations and below are real world solutions.
- Kale Chips
- Beef Jerky / turkey /salmon, etc
- Mixed nut varieties without added salt
- Yogurt (watch out for sugars)
- Cottage Cheese
- Roasted Seaweed
- Cauliflower pizza &/or tots
- Perfect bars (for the teenager, husband or wife concerned with protein)
- Sprouted pumpkin seeds (super tasty handfuls of these are packed with nutrients)
- Sunflower seeds
- Veggie chips (grab a healthy salsa made mostly of ‘whole’ ingredients like tomatoes and onions)
- Rice cakes (great with almond or peanut butter and raisins or banana slices)
- Dried Fruits and Vegetables
- Hard boiled eggs
In summary, great choices are planned, then practiced. Plan by making a list before going to the store or even thinking about your snack choice the night before work. Practice staying to the perimeters of grocery stores to keep options as fresh as possible. Eye the nutrition labels on packaged items to know the portions, sugars, trans fats and try to recognize the ingredients just below. Lastly, find what healthy foods bring you joy. The process of picking out healthier options is habit setting and practice towards success that will help you thrive for a lifetime!