Why We Need “The Talk”…
I have noticed that many people I know are concerned about snacking. In fact, it seems as though people are afraid of snacking, which is upsetting because eating (including snacking) should be a joyful experience. You are giving your body nutrients so that it can be strong for you and you are also enjoying the smell, taste and texture of the food (or at least you should be!) However, when it comes to snacking, I think some people are confused about which snacks are “good” or “bad”. I do not like to think of food in terms of “good” or bad”. Food is food. It can taste good or bad, but it is not, in itself, good or bad. Instead, I try to eat different types of food in moderation. For example, I often cook healthful breakfasts, lunches and dinners and usually eat fruit, vegetables or yogurt in between meals. However, if I want a cookie, or a muffin, or some other “treat” one day, I will likely have it – as part of a balanced diet. This concept seems to provoke a strong reaction in many people, as it seems many people associate foods such as cookies or ice cream with guilt. It is time to work on your relationship (with food) and befriend the enemy.
*photo courtesy of http://www.abetterbagofgroceries.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/salty-snacks.jpg
Just Hear Me Out…
This is a break-up with your diet habits. Dieting does not usually lead to long-term weight loss. Skipping meals (and snacks) could cause binge-eating later, along with feelings of deprivation, guilt and behaviors associated with disordered eating. Instead, it is finally time to begin a new relationship with food – a healthy relationship, in which there is respect, peace and happiness. Now, I know many people want to enjoy snacking – who wouldn’t? However, confusion and anxiety about how to snack can certainly take the fun out of what is supposed to be both enjoyable and beneficial. So I am here to sort out fact from fiction, and offer up some of my favorite snack ideas, from whole foods to packaged goodies. After hearing my side, hopefully we can work it out.
So, what is a “snack” and how does it differ from a “meal”? Truth is, depending on what works for you, a snack may not be any different from a meal. Many people find that eating multiple, small meals during the day helps to keep them feeling full and provides their bodies with adequate nutrition. However, if you are eating three meals a day (which, at a minimum, you should!) snacking is often a helpful way to keep your metabolism humming and tide you over until your next meal. Ideally, if someone is on a 1,800 calorie – 2,000 calorie diet (by “diet” I mean their average dietary intake, not a “diet” in the typical sense), meals should approximate 500 calories each, leaving 300 – 500 calories for snacking. (It should be noted that everyone’s caloric requirement is different and this is just an example). An ideal snack is typically thought to be about 150 – 300 calories, although this can obviously vary from person-to- person and time-to-time. Snacks should usually consist of foods that offer healthful benefits, for example, a fruit that offers fiber along with vitamins and minerals. However, a snack can also be something that isn’t so much a contributor to your nutrient-dense calories, but rather, something you want to eat and can eat in moderation, knowing that your nutrients are coming from elsewhere in the diet. So it’s okay to break out the chocolate and ice cream every once in awhile – this is a break up after all. Just remember the foundations of good nutrition: balance, variety and moderation.
*photo courtesy of http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/8/17/1345200214609/Dark-chocolate-009.jpg
I Can See Clearly Now…
So, hopefully by now you are feeling that not only is it okay to snack – you are encouraged to snack. Just snack wisely (most of the time)! here are some of my favorite snacks, ranging from unprocessed fruits and vegetables to pre-packaged, store-bought convenience items.
This is an easy one. Need an on-the-go snack? Whole fruits that you can bite into, such as apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots and bananas are great, portable options. Additionally, you can cut up fruit when you do have the time so that when you are busy, you can just reach for the container (or bag, or whatever you choose to store your cut up fruit in) and bring it with you. Dried fruit is also a good option – just be aware of the sugar content. The process of drying is a dehydration process and usually sugar is used to attract water out of the fruit, increasing the sugar content of the fruit once it has been dried. If you’re at home, you can enjoy some of my favorite snacks and desserts: cut up grapefruit, broiled grapefruit with brown sugar, melted dark chocolate with strawberries and bananas, banana slices with peanut butter, frozen grapes or frozen dark chocolate-dipped bananas. Right now, clementines are also especially sweet!
*photo courtesy of http://picsmesh.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/07-Beautiful-Fruit-Wallpapers.jpg
Vegetables, Beans, Legumes:
I like to bring sliced bell pepper, cucumber and carrots with me and usually I will bring a small container of hummus. The vegetables on their own do not contain many calories, but they offer a ton of vitamins and minerals and are full of water and fiber, which help to keep me full. Hummus helps to fill me up if I want a heartier snack and adds even more fiber. Edamame is another fun snack. A great tip is to sprinkle on the salt after you have heated the soybeans, since you will be able to taste the crystals that are on the surface and can use less salt. Edamame is also great on its own, eaten warm or cold. Also, I am unashamed to admit that I still eat ants on a log – more appropriately referred to at my age as celery with peanut butter and raisins.
I have recently become addicted to Larabars. These bars are minimally processed and contain very few ingredients (some bars only have 2 ingredients!), all of which I can pronounce and recognize as food items. While many granola bars and other on-the-go bars contain ingredients made in a laboratory and cheap, added fibers, such as inulin, which can often cause gastrointestinal distress, Larabars are made from dates and contain a few ingredients to enhance the flavor of the dates. The fiber and nutrients are all there, in a conveniently packaged bar that averages around 200 calories. My favorite flavor is peanut butter chocolate chip! I also make my own trail mixes, using individually packaged nuts, seeds and fruit. Here is my favorite combination: cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, dried blueberries, pieces of dark chocolate. Try to find unsalted or reduced-salt versions of nuts when making your own trail mixes.
*photo courtesy of http://s3.amazonaws.com/jo.www.larabar.com.2011/uploads/page/meta_social_images/15/original.png?1333057076
My favorite go-to snack when I crave creaminess is Greek yogurt. I like Fage 0% plain, which contains few ingredients, among which are live, active cultures of beneficial bacteria that can colonize as microflora in the intestine and contribute to immune and digestive health. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus are the names of bacteria to look for when reading your yogurt label. I like to eat my Greek yogurt either with fruit, fruit and chocolate chips, fruit and honey, granola (usually my homemade granola, which can be found on this blog, although I also am a fan of Purely Elizabeth’s use of quinoa, chia, amaranth and other grains and seeds). I also like to put my Greek yogurt in a smoothie, whether it’s a light fruit smoothie (using REAL fruit) or a protein-packed peanut butter smoothie (which usually contains chocolate or a banana – or both!) If you’re craving ice cream, Breyer’s has a natural line that really hits the spot. I’m a fan of Breyer’s Natural Vanilla, which contains just four simple ingredients. I usually top my ice cream with some melted peanut butter to pump up the protein (and because I do not think there is any one food that I love more than peanut butter).
*photo courtesy of http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/cheese/yogurt/images/total-0.jpg
Other Processed Foods:
My most recent find is Boom Chicka Pop popcorn, which has a “lightly sweet” flavor that tastes just like kettle-corn. This popcorn is only 35 calories per cup, or 120 calories for each 3 1/4 C serving. Also, this snack packs in 5 grams of fiber per serving and is surprisingly not high in sodium or sugar. I also like baked chips or cape cod chips, which have considerable less fat than regular potato chips. When it comes to cakes, muffins and cookies, I tend to bake my own, since I can replace oils and other fats with more healthful ingredients, such as Greek yogurt, swap out some of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour and ensure that I am aware of the amount of sugar I am consuming (and making sure that it is as natural as possible). It should be noted that black strap molasses actually contains calcium, so this sweetener is a wise choice. However, if you do not wish to bake your own baked goods, my advice is to read the nutrition label. Many of these commercially-sold baked goods contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, trans fats and a labyrinth of an ingredients label. Try to focus on foods (processed or otherwise) that you can recognize as foods. If you do not recognize the ingredient (or can’t pronounce it, like many chemicals and food additives used), it is likely not worthy of entering your body.
*photo courtesy of http://www.plummarket.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/8/9/892773000697_1_1.jpg
I hope I cleared up some of the rumors and preconceived notions about snacks. I like to follow the “80/20 rule” – make sure that 80% of your diet provides the nutrients you need and you can allow about 20% of your diet to be wiggle room. Your healthy relationship with food can involve snacking! In fact, snacking is a great complement to an active, healthy lifestyle. You must always remember to fuel your body – it works hard for you!