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Snack Attack

Posted on: September 25th, 2012

Is snacking our friend or foe? Well, it can be both! Choose the right foods at the right time and you are doing your body a big favor – but if you don’t have healthy snacks within arm’s reach, you’re probably already munching on those chips…

What are the Right Foods?
There are actually hundreds of ready to eat foods that are very good for you, but in this case I am going to focus on the sensations that we crave the most; crunchy, salty, sweet and chewy.

My Favorite Snack Mix – roasted almonds, pecans, dried fruit, and chocolate covered sesame seeds, along with whatever else I have on hand that sounds good. I put a bowl next to my daughters homework, one on the coffee table in front of the TV and one in my office.

Crunchy and Salty Snacks

The Un-Chip

This is the most craved type of snack, and most are particularly unhealthy, but you can also cure that crunchy-salty ‘jones’ with popcorn or nuts and do your body good!

Popcorn
Low in calories and high in fiber, popcorn is a healthy choice and a tasty source of soluble fiber (1.1 grams in a handful). Fiber is an important part of the digestive process, in short it aids in digestion as it helps reduce cholesterol and helps control your glucose levels, reducing your risk of heart attack and diabetes.

I usually pop my own, it’s easy and cheap, but I also keep a bag of Skinny Pop on hand for convenience; it’s almost as good as homemade and doesn’t have as much fat, salt and chemicals as most pre-popped corn on the market.  Only 39 calories in a handful, not bad!

Nuts
There are few foods as nutrient dense as nuts (particularly Almonds, Walnuts and Pecans). Scientists could go on all day about their benefits (and do), but in brief they are good for the brain, heart, skin, digestion, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight loss, energy and offer protection from cancer and diabetes.  Not a bad list of benefits for something that tastes so good!

Do keep in mind that nuts are high in fat and calories, but most are healthy fats with a positive effect on your diet. As a guideline, think “A handful a day keeps the doctor away!” If I ever start to get hungry before dinner I grab a handful of nuts, they keep me from eating myself silly.

Sweet and Chewy Snacks

Very Berry Mix: Cherry, Cranberry and Blueberry.

Dried Berries have all the impressive health benefits of fresh, and they are wonderfully chewy with a sweet / tart flavor that’s hard to beat, and they’re very convenient to carry and store. Berries are packed with vitamin C, as well as calcium, magnesium, folate, potassium, phytochemicals and flavonoids.  The benefits are many and vary with the berry, but in general they promote vision and cardiovascular health as they help in the prevention of cancer and diabetes, as well as aiding memory and cognitive problems associated with aging.

Chewing Gum
The chewing action helps to satisfy us, and a stick of gum is the ultimate way to finish a snack or meal, especially when you are away from home. Chewing a stick of gum can also help to clean your teeth and take away the sugars left behind from snacks and sweet drinks. Keep it on hand, in the car and in the kids backpacks (be sure to understand school policy on chewing gum).

Put the Pringles Away!
Ever notice once you open that package and turn your back, a bag of chips (or pretty much any junk food) disappears before you know it! If you want to eat better, put the dang chips away and get some healthy snacks out on the counter!

Look for nuts, dried fruit and snack mixes at Tony’s.

My Favorite Healthy Snack Mix
I try to buy three healthy snack foods for every one unhealthy – look in our grocery dept for the tastiest snacks, and to our produce department for the nuts and dried fruit.  My favorite healthy mix is Almonds, Pecans, Chocolate Covered Sesame Seeds and Very Berry Mix (cherries, cranberries and blueberries). I’ll toss them with whatever else I have on hand that sounds good and keep them around the house in sealable containers, they don’t disappear as fast as chips, but they’re pretty darn tasty!

Beware 100 Calorie Packs!

100 Calorie Packs are usually just junk food in smaller containers. Read the package, there’s nothing good for you in there, and they can’t come close to the benefits of the same 100 calories of my fruit and nut mix.

10 Pounds a Year! Stop fooling yourself, when you see a 100 calorie pack remember, eat 100 LESS calories a day and lose 10 LBS a year (or gain 10 LBS less). If you want cookies or chips get some good ones and enjoy, a little treat here and there is all part of the balance.

What’s your favorite?  Share your favorite healthy snack in the comments section below – Buon Appetito – Salute!

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