Question: Help! It’s January and I’m among the folks who’ve made eating better one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’ve heard that snacking between meals is a good option, but I’m having some difficulty finding snacks other than carrot sticks and celery stalks to munch on that are healthy. What are some other options?
Answer: Glad you asked! Healthy snacks are a part of a balanced, healthy eating plan by offering extra nutrients that may be missing from your meals, as well as providing an energy boost and satisfying midday hunger pangs. The key is to choose a snack that will be beneficial to your overall health and diet. And that takes some planning.
The ChooseMyPlate.gov website offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers suggestions on healthy snacks:
Prep veggies ahead of time: Store sliced vegetables in the refrigerator and serve with dips like hummus or low-calorie dressing.
Top half of a whole-wheat English muffin with spaghetti sauce, chopped vegetables, and low-fat shredded mozzarella and melt in the microwave.
Mix it up: Mix dried fruit, unsalted nuts and popcorn in a snack-size bag for a quick trail mix.
Blend plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt with 100 percent fruit juice and frozen peaches for a refreshing smoothie.
Choose whole grains: Try whole-wheat breads, popcorn and whole-oat cereals that are high in fiber and low in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium. Limit refined-grain products such as snack bars, cakes and sweetened cereals.
Snack on lean protein: Choose lean protein foods such as low-sodium deli meats or unsalted nuts. Wrap sliced, low-sodium deli turkey around an apple wedge. Hard-boiled eggs also are a good choice.
Fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits can be easy options that need little preparation. Choose whole fruit and limit the amount of 100 percent juice you drink.
If you’re at work or another place away from home where you find that the only handy option is what’s available in the vending machine, you can still make healthy snack choices. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers the following suggestions:
A small bag of pretzels, peanuts, almonds or trail mix.
Fat-free or reduced-fat popcorn.
Whole-wheat crackers with peanut butter or cheese.
Whole-grain granola or cereal bars.
Graham or animal crackers.
100-percent fruit or vegetable juice.
Dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries or apricots.
Microwaveable soup or oatmeal. However, be careful to watch your sodium and added sugar intake.
Remember, healthy snacking isn’t supposed to be the size of a full meal – know how much is enough. The American Dietetic Association suggests choosing a single-serve container for your snack or putting a small helping in a bowl or a snack-sized bag rather than eating directly from the container.
And lastly, snack when you are hungry – not because you are bored, frustrated or stressed.