What’s a healthy snack?
Recently, a friend gave me a call asking me for help. She’s a band director and also in graduate school and her schedule is kind of crazy. Between teaching and driving to another town for class, she doesn’t have a lot of time to eat and was at a loss as to what was a good snack to help her out. Planning and preparation can take the desperation out what would otherwise be a fast-food run for lack of options.
When you’re trying to figure out what are some good healthy options for you, besides thinking “portable”? Instead of thinking in terms of specific foods and getting confused, you can simplify your options by thinking in terms of macronutrients: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats. Instead of thinking “well, a banana is healthy….” sure it is, but if you eat nothing but bananas you’ll get burned out quickly. Besides that, a banana is only a carbohydrate – it doesn’t constitute a balanced meal or snack. When picking your snack options think of things this way:
1) What protein do I want?
2) Do I want to eat a carb or a fat with that?
You do not have to subscribe to the 6-8 small meals a day philosophy. Ignore the hype and myths, it does nothing to your metabolism. It may help to stabilize your blood sugar levels, but mainly, the small meal approach makes it simpler to get in more nutrients and proper macro ratios (i.e. enough protein, more fruits and veggies, more Vit C) into your diet. So, if you are going to be having 2-3 snacks a day, you obviously do not have to pick the same foods each time. Ahhhh, variety! In fact, this order doesn’t have to relate to just snacks, I do this for every meal I eat: center my meal around protein and then figure out what I want to go with it.
So what DO I eat??
Well, let’s look at a couple different things that are great to eat on the run. By the way, a small lunch bag/box with an ice pack is indespensible – you will be eating REAL food this way, not processed candy junk. So, pick a protein and then pick one carb and/or one fat and you’ve got yourself a great snack!
Pick a Protein
0% Greek Yogurt
Low-fat string cheese
Low-fat Deli meat
Low-fat Cottage Cheese
Pick a Carbohydrate
Plums, all fruit
Sprouted Bread or wraps
Multi-grain crackers (no HFCS)
Rice Cakes (low sugar)
Pick a fat
Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios
Full-fat cheese (goat cheese is great with fruit and easy to digest)
Sunflower seeds, other seeds
Some of my favorites?
- half of a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and mustard, maybe some low-fat cheese
- Greek yogurt parfait with fruit and almond butter or walnuts
- Apple and Peanut butter with string cheese
- Protein powder mixed with Greek yogurt and topped with peanut butter (or nuts)
There are also some other ready made options that aren’t too bad when looking for on-the-go snacks. Your best bet for healthy is 1) be as natural as possible (the less processed the better – did it grow in that form?) 2) pick protein first
Some of my go-to ready-made snacks:
Ostrim ostrich jerkey
I’m sure you’ve seen these around. As jerkey goes, these are a better choice than most. Why? Well, they aren’t just made with beef, they’re also made with ostrich – an extremely lean meat. They also do not have hydrolyzed soy protein, like a lot of jerkys do. They’re high in protein (10g) low in fat (1-2g) and low in carbs. Carbs? Yes, carbs. All jerkey is not made equal. Lots of them have added sugars and are made with soy, not meat. When picking your protein, you’ll notice I mention low fat a lot. It’s not that there is something wrong with the higher fat proteins, but when you are picking a protein, you want it to be primarily that: protein. If there are a lot of added carbs and fats, it suddenly takes on a lot more calories and then you have less volume to play with. These jerkey sticks are about 80 calories each and make a great snack on the go. Throw some fruit in there to balance it out and you’ve got a great snack. A word of caution: I’m not wild about the nitrates used to preserve these, so they aren’t perfect, but good in a pinch. I wouldn’t make these a daily nosh. I’m pretty sure Trader Joe’s has some nitrate-free choices, so you can check those out too for options. Another note: make sure to drink lots of water to balance out that sodium intake!
You can buy these at lots of places: Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, Smoothie King, even some gas stations.
Power Crunch Bars
These have got to be my favorite snack. They’re a protein/fat combo and taste like cookies so they not only keep my sweet tooth satisfied, they keep my tummy satisfied and I can keep them in my purse. Each bar has roughly the same amount of calories as a Larabar (200) and fat (12) but these have about 13-14g protein per bar and taste just like those wafer cookies you know you should stay away from (Nutter Butter anyone???). The protein they are made with is broken down into much smaller particles so (according to BNRG) you absorb more of the protein than you might from other sources. they are also only made with whey, not soy or other proteins, which has been shown to be better absorbed. In any case, they are TASTY! I know you can get them from Vitamin Shoppe, Vitamin World, GNC and I’ve even seen them in CVS and will soon be in Trader Joe’s, but you can also check out their website at http://www.bnrg.com or order them online. Favorite flavors are the cookies and cream and the peanut butter ones. Chocolate and Vanilla are either too sweet or bland for me.
These are wonderful little snack bars that come in all kinds of flavors and it really doesn’t get more natural than this. They combine dates with nuts and you get a bar! Seriously. My current favorite is the Peanut Butter and Jelly flavor. Ingredients? Dates, peanuts, unsweetened cherries, salt. That’s it!
As you can see they’ve also got a few new flavors out. They don’t do just fruit either. They’ve got a Jocolat line, which are chocolate flavored ones and as I surf their site, they’ve come out with cookie flavors! I’m going to have to try these: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Chip Brownie. How can you go wrong? It’s a good natural source of carbs and fat and fits easily into your purse or bag. As I said before, you should base your meals around protein, but it’s all right to have a mostly carb/fat snack, too, as long as it’s slow digesting. Larabars fit the bill – they’re healthy, give you lots of good vitamins and minerals and give you a serving of fruit, to boot!
Check them out at http://www.larabar.com
Sources of inspiration
I’ve got to give props to Clean Eating Magazine for helping me with snack ideas. They’ve got great recipes every couple of months and each issue comes with a two week menu – each day have 2 snacks. It’s super helpful, especially if you’re clueless and overwhelmed with where to start.
- High-Protein Snacks (foxnews.com)