What Makes for a Healthy Snack?

by | Jun 3, 2015 | Diet & Nutrition

handful of almondsIn a survey we told you about a few weeks ago, lots of folks were able to identify apples and vegetables as tooth-friendly snacks, but fewer were aware that things like nuts and cheese can be good options, too.

And, of course, are these are far from the only options out there.

Yet in a culture of hyper-processed convenience food products, it can be a trick sometimes to discern “healthy” from an imposter. Sure, we can all agree that things like chips, candy, cookies and fast food are “bad.” We can all identify “junk food,” whether we eat it or not. But what about things like smoothies or yogurt or granola bars – foods that are often marketed as healthy or wholesome?

Consider those granola bars. On the one hand, they can contain a lot of protein – a good thing. They can also contain a lot of sugar. It’s not just the mainstream, almost candy bar-like products, with their chocolate chips, marshmallows, chocolate coatings and other add-ins. A number of bars included in one list of “healthy” options actually contain just as much or more sugar than mainstream Quaker’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars.

On the other hand, these products – unlike the Quaker bar – tend to include fewer and higher quality ingredients. They tend to have fewer added sugars. There are 5 different sugars added to that Quaker bar, in addition to the sugars used in the granola and chocolate chips. There are also artificial flavors and other additives and preservatives.

As ever, when buying any kind of packaged, processed food, it pays to read the label – not the one on the front of the package but the back or side, where ingredients and basic nutrition facts are listed. In general, the longer and less pronounceable the ingredients list, the more you’re looking at a product, not real food.

And real food is exactly what your body needs (and deserves). Start with whole or minimally processed foods, and a whole world of mix-and-match possibilities opens up. Just a few possibilities:

  • Raw veg with hummus
  • Avocado slices
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Apple slices with nut or seed butter
  • Cheese and olives
  • Edamame
  • Homemade trail mix (add dried fruit sparingly; no chocolate chips, M&Ms, etc.)
  • Homemade kale chips
  • Plain Greek yogurt with some berries, seeds or nuts you add yourself (or even a bit of local honey, if you really want a touch of sweet)

There are also quite a few great lists of “paleo snacks” that typically include some clever recipes for alternate versions of familiar snack foods. (Cauliflower popcorn! Eggplant jerky!)

Remember, though: Snacking should be only a sometimes thing – a pick-me-up, a tide-me-over. Grazing through the day – especially on fruit or carbs – means a higher risk of caries, since such foods make the mouth more acidic.

But when you do snack, your body will thank you for opting for healthy.

Image by Abd allah Fotelh

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