By Harper Finch
Snacks are an important part of healthy eating. Experts recommend having three meals a day with healthy snacks in between. Snacking is important because it keeps you from getting overly hungry between meals, which can lead to bingeing and loss of self-control. That turkey sandwich you were planning to have for lunch? Forget it. You’re so hungry you can polish off half a combination pizza now. And you will.
When you snack, what you eat matters. Trust me, I know it is easiest, and usually quite satisfying to reach for something unhealthy. Prepackaged foods are convenient and tasty. But there are always better options for all of these snacks.
#1) Swap Pretzels For Air Popped Popcorn
I know why you think pretzels are a good snack… they’re very low in fat and they have few calories per serving. But they provide absolutely no nutritional value. They’re made with just white flour, water, sugar, and salt. (I think that might be the recipe for paste.) Also, because they lack protein and whole grain, they won’t keep you full for long. Oh, and all that sodium! You’re going to be so puffy for your date tonight. Just don’t.
Have air-popped popcorn instead. It has only 31 calories per cup, so you can have a second serving without any guilt. Popcorn is a great source of fiber, meaning that it will keep you satiated longer. Also, it has more polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) than fruits and vegetables. Avoid the microwave kind, and try to avoid adding butter, oil, or sugar.
#2) Swap a Frozen Pizza for a Healthy, Homemade Version
Prepackaged, frozen pizzas can have anywhere from 300 to 500 calories per serving. With all the greasy cheese and toppings, they are loaded with saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium. And the crusts aren’t any better. Made with white flour, they have little to no nutritional value.
Swap your pizza out for a toasted, whole-wheat English muffin topped with low-fat mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, and spinach. This version is loaded with of protein, fiber, and calcium. The fresh tomatoes and spinach are a great source of B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C, K.
#3) Swap Mini Donuts for a Baked Apple
They’re delicious, aren’t they… those little mini donuts? I know it. But they’re terrible. Put them down. They have no redeeming quality, whatsoever. They are basically sugar, a bit of flower, and chemicals.
If you’re craving something sweet, try baking an apple. Apples are low in calories and they contain no fat, sodium, or cholesterol. They are a great source of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin-C. All you have to do is core an apple, fill it with a blend of crushed walnuts, cinnamon, and applesauce, then bake it at around 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it is soft. It’s sweet, delicious, and great for you.
Image by: Lori L. Stalteri
#4) Swap Veggie Straws for Raw Almonds
Yes, that’s right. I said you should swap out your veggie straws. I’ll let you in on a little secret… Check the ingredients and you’ll see that there really aren’t any vegetables in them. They are made from potato flour and they contain spinach powder and tomato puree. The reason they taste like potato chips is because they are essentially just glorified potato chips. They aren’t healthier for you at all.
If you’re looking for something nutritious and filling, you’re better off grabbing a handful of raw almonds. They are rich in protein, vitamins, healthy fats, and antioxidants. They contain flavonoids and vitamin E, which both fight cholesterol, making them a great heart-healthy snack.
The key to snacking is moderation and balance. To make sure snacking doesn’t ruin your diet, you’ll want to avoid mindless, frequent eating. Focus on healthy snacks with protein, fiber and good fats, which help you feel full longer and keep you from over-indulging. And always ask yourself if the snack you are about to eat could be replaced with a smarter alternative.