It may feel like cheating but snacking might not be so bad. Here are some healthy foods for quick snack ideas:
I asked my Facebook friends what their favorite healthy and unhealthy snack items are. (And if you missed out on this survey, make sure you find us and FOLLOW us!) Not only did I get a lot of fun unhealthy replies, but I also got some great snacking idea alternatives! Here’s what made the unhealthy list–ranked in order of votes submitted:
Chips, cookies, and cakes are the big winners–or should I say losers?–with ice cream being not too far behind. I even got some pretty interesting unhealthy recipes turned in! But in my overall conversations with my friends, I realized that everyone pretty much likes the same stuff. Most of us either crave salty snack foods or sweet. I’m pretty sure I crave both, but if I had to pick just one, I’d go for sweet. I love love LOVE ice cream, cake icing, and anything chocolate. I really wish I was one of those genetic freaks who can get away with eating that sort of stuff and not gaining a pound, but alas, (sigh), I’m not.
And when I asked my friends what their favorite healthy snack item is, here are the top results:
I was honestly a little surprised to see so many veggies make the list–I mean I know they’re good for you, but do that many people REALLY enjoy them? I definitely wasn’t shocked to see that so many people love fruit–who doesn’t love a nice, ripe, sugary _________? (fill in the blank.) But if you aren’t a fruit or veggie person, you may want to think twice when you reach for your afternoon snack. Not only are fruits and vegetables low in fat and calories, but they’re usually pretty filling due to the amount of fiber that most provide. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is a great resource for learning how to properly choose foods that are great for weight loss. According to cdc.gov, here are six super simple, healthy snack ideas:
About 100 Calories or Less
- a medium-size apple (72 calories)
- a medium-size banana (105 calories)
- 1 cup steamed green beans (44 calories)
- 1 cup blueberries (83 calories)
- 1 cup grapes (100 calories)
- 1 cup carrots (45 calories), broccoli (30 calories), or bell peppers (30 calories) with 2 tbsp. hummus (46 calories)
Both fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy body, and many help reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases and even cancer. Berries are known for containing high antioxidant power which helps reduce and attack free radicals in the body–molecules that weaken our immune systems and cause diseases and cancer.
When choosing snack options, never feel guilty for reaching for that apple or sliced veggies. My personal fave is the grapefruit. Vitamin C, A, B9, fiber, potassium, a digestion aid, cancer-fighting cartenoids….you name it and it’s there. When I splurge on carbs, my favorite fruit is the banana and fave veggie is the sweet potato. Between the potassium and fiber in both, and the vitamin A in the potato–snacking has never been greater!
And speaking of potatoes, I’ve read so many mixed reviews on them it’s hard to tell where anyone stands. Some of my friends listed potatoes on their heatlhy list and some on the opposite! Here’s my take: if you want a potato, eat one. Throw some fresh organic salsa on top and chow down! (Salsa, by the way, is an excellent way to spice up a lot of foods without adding too many extra calories.) And even better than a regular potato, eat a sweet potato–man, do I love these! (Did I say that already?) 😉 And more importantly, eat it AFTER your workout. Let your hungry and wide-open muscles absorb the carbs instead of some “other” region of your body. Can’t eat it plain? Cinnamon, stevia, anything lower in fat (to prevent the carbs + fats from binding together and slowing digestion) should work. One of my favorite post workout meals is a microwaveable sweet potato, a steamable bag of frozen veggies (usually spinach or cauliflower) and a protein source like chicken or fish. Why can’t this be a snack as well? Got leftovers? Pack them up for snacking on the following day.
Do you ever feel guilty if you don’t eat enough vegetables daily? I do. And I make sure I supplement with greens powders to ensure I get all my required doses every day. But what if you’re not into supplementing? No problem. Mix chopped celery, cottage cheese, and tuna together for an awesome protein-packed snack. Chop up veggies (or heck, buy the pre-packed sliced veggies) and find your favorite hummus, and snack away. My favorite hummus is Sabra’s Roasted Pine Nut and I love to have my hummus with carrots. Something else you can do with your veggies is throw them into a skilled–chopped, diced, and sliced–with a little bit of coconut oil and I promise you, your veggies will taste so much sweeter! I don’t know how it works, but just a little coconut oil makes everything else so incredibly better! If you’ve never heard or tried it before, check out my 12 Steps to Fitness article and read about it there. Ah-maze-ing.
But I Need More Protein!
Not many people in my facebook snack survey said that they liked protein-rich snacks, and protein is the one macro-nutrient that A) our bodies don’t convert to fat when we eat too much of it and B) we need more of and yet usually don’t get enough. I know what you’re going to say: “But yogurt has protein, and so do nuts!” And they do–thank God. Or else there would be nothing left to snack on. But what if you’re one of the many who are following a low-carb plan and still like to snack without the extra carbs from yogurt–which can be very high in sugar might I add. Or what if you’re like me–a person who could eat almonds all day long but will suffer weight gain from overeating the added calories from too much fat? Well, lucky for you, I’ve got some great low calorie protein packed snack ideas as well as some quick easy fixes for the salty-chip lovers and the gooey chocolate-aholics.
First off, cottage cheese is low in carbs, high in protein, comes in several sized packages, mixes with anything you want to put in it, and it should be your best friend. Lord knows it’s mine. And I hope I never get tired of eating it because I eat it once a day. At least. What more can I say? It’s an athlete’s dream snack. As long as you have access to a cooler or refrigerator, you can take it anywhere. You can add fresh fruit, cinnamon, nuts, whatever your heart desires. Most importantly it’s quick and high in protein. ‘Nuff said.
My second favorite go-to protein snack is a can of tuna. Not the kind with the mayo already mixed in, just plain ol’ tuna. Zero carbs, healthy omega 3s, 18+ grams of protein, and well, nothing negative that I can think of. I have tuna or salmon anywhere from 3-5 times per week. I’m not big on chicken or steak (probably because I have to COOK those), so tuna is literally my chicken of the sea. It’s quick and easy, and top it with mustard or salsa and I’m good to go. Add a carrot snack pack and I’m even better.
While we’re on the topic of carrots, I love to dip carrots in this amazing jalapeno Greek yogurt dip that I get at Costco made by Skotidakis. The dip is all natural: the only ingredients are yogurt, garlic, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, onions, green bell peppers, canola oil, salt, and paprika. It’s low in calories and carbs and has only 3.5 grams of fat per serving. If I’m not dipping my carrots into it, I’m dipping peppers, topping it on salads, burgers, you name it.
Another high-protein, low-carb fave snack of mine is hard boiled eggs. And if you hate boiling them yourself, good news! You can buy them already boiled, shelled, and packaged up ready to go. You can take them anywhere, even buy them at Sheetz, and I always take a little mustard along with me for flavor. Not a mustard person? I’ve been known to dip them in hummus. A handful of almonds, a couple eggs, a splash of hummus–who wouldn’t be a happy snacker? Not an egg fan? Buy some low-fat string cheese. Most everyone I know loves cheese–only one of my friends doesn’t–and cheese can be found anywhere! Pick your favorite flavor, brand, and feel free to have a piece every now and then. Many people give cheese a bad rap because it’s “high in fat,” but unless you’re topping every little thing you eat with it, a piece here and there is not going to do you damage.
I’m a firm believer that we can be a healthy society and yet still really, honestly enjoy the foods we eat. So if you’re caught in an unhealthy snack trap, try out these quick–and super simple–substitutions:
Instead of munching on chips, try Blue Diamond Almonds. Recently, I stumbled upon their BBQ Habanero Almonds and I am in love with them. I kid you not, it tastes just like eating BBQ chips. Sure, the last time I bought them I ate them all in two days, but at least I filled my body with heart-healthy Omega 6 fats, lots of fiber and protein, and very few carbs. They actually come in eight different flavors, including Salt-and-Vinegar–my second favorite. Almonds have amazing nutritional value. Not only are they high in protein, but according to the World’s Healthiest Foods, they also lower LDL-Cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. They even provide a double-barreled protection against diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Bold flavor not your thing? Blue Diamond sells any type of almond product imaginable. Because I tend to overeat my fat calories, I buy the All-Natural 100-Calorie Packs of almonds. It keeps me in check. I also buy their zero-sugar added 30-calorie/serving Almond Milk–which I mix with my greens powder. Thanks to Blue Diamond, snacking for me has become simple, fun, and super easy.
Another good-for-you fat alternative is something I stumbled upon at my local organic food co-op: Savi Seeds. These seeds are the richest plant-based source of Omega-3 on the planet and on their own boast 17 times more Omega-3 per ounce than wild Sockeye salmon. Sounds perfect, right? They are available in three flavors: Cocoa Kissed (my favorite), Karmalized (haven’t tried these yet) and Oh Natural (completely carb free!) in either single-serving 1 oz. packs or 5 oz. pouches.
I Need Me Something Sweet!
Ok sugar-alholics, this next section is for YOU. Go out and buy some organic greek yogurt–NON-FLAVORED–and then buy your favorite fruit (fresh or frozen), toss in a small handful of your favorite unsalted nuts, and voila! You have a healthy, sweet snack loaded with protein. Not a fruit or nut person? Add cinnamon and a splash of Stevia (an all-natural sweetener). My favorite Greek go-to is Oikos. The taste is incredible, and the “Plain” flavor is super high in protein. And Oikos has twice the protein of regular yogurt and less lactose. Why Greek? Deciding upon this Mediterranean version is a great choice because it’s strained to remove much of the liquid whey, lactose, and sugar, which gives it its thick consistency—an undeniable edge. What’s more is that in roughly the same amount of calories, it can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half.
If you like yogurt at all, you’ll probably LOVE Kefir. Never heard of it? That’s ok, not many people have. It’s kind of like a combination of yogurt and a smoothie all in one. The flavored ones are super yummy but pretty high in sugar due to the added fruits/juices. I usually get the plain version (just like I do with Greek yogurt) and add it to my protein shakes. Lifeway’s Organic Kefir products contain seven to ten billion CFU’s of 10 strains of bacteria, plus ProBoost, an exclusive pair of clinically proven probiotics to balance your body’s ecosystem and support digestive health. That’s 12 live and active cultures per cup. Additionally, Kefir is a great source of calcium and protein and the milk in the organic Kefirs comes from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones and are produced without the use of conventional pesticides.
Need a chocolate boost? You can add organic baking cocoa powder to just about anything if you’re creative enough. I’ve added it to cottage cheese, greek yogurt, and even into my almond milk for a nice chocolaty flavor. Worried about the bitter taste? Add a very small sprinkle of Stevia and you’ll never even notice. Baking cocoa is sugar-free and if you get the right kind (organic, well-made), then it’s carb free too. My favorite is the Equal Exchange Organic and Fairly Traded Baking Cocoa.
And FINALLY, I Saved the Best for Last:
Yogurt and vanilla pudding. I know, sounds weird, but hear me out. Have you ever licked the batter out of a bowl when making a cake? Ok, that’s what this concoction tastes like. And yes, I am very much like a kid when it comes to things like cake batter and cookie dough. Many people are. Here’s what you do: take a small container of plain Greek yogurt, put it in a bowl with about a half package of instant non-fat/no-sugar vanilla pudding mix. You may want to add a few TBS of milk or almond milk depending on how thick you want the consistency, but I swear on my life, this tastes like cake batter. It’s not the most healthy snack I’ve listed, but if you’re in a desperate “I NEED SWEETS” mood and you’re trying so damn hard to be good, this is a GREAT alternative.
And speaking of alternatives, I have one last amazing food find for you. My facebook and Crossfitter instructor friend Andrea, let me in on her absolute favorite healthy snack: “Go Raw 100% Organic Carrot Cake Super Cookies.” I haven’t tried them yet because they aren’t sold anywhere within an hour’s travel, but I’m hoping next weekend when I make it to Charlottesville to the SuperFit Games, I can swing by a whole foods store and pick up some. According to Andrea, these are her absolute favorite EVER. There’s no added sugar, oils, flour or animal products of any kind in these cookies! The website claims,
“The sweetness of carrots married with the spicy flavor of nutmeg—welcome to the delicious Super Cookie that tastes like a crunchy piece of carrot cake! It’s got the cake flavor with the goodness of a raw snack that your body will thank you for.”
Thanks Andrea! I cannot wait to try these and update the post to let everyone know what I think! Has anyone else tried them? Leave us some feedback below!
So what’s holding you back when it comes to choosing a healthy snack? Is it simplicity? Taste? Prep-time? I hope this list is able to solve a lot of unhealthy snacking issues out there. But in case we missed something, LET US KNOW in the COMMENTS section below! What else can we add to the list?
A big SHOUT OUT goes to the following friends for your input and ideas! Thanks for letting me know your guilty pleasures:
Ginny, Kara, Andrea, Renee, Brianna, Cammy, Liz, Paul, Angie, Crystal, Laura, Ted, Dawnelle, Erin, Chad, Priscilla, Amanda, Shannon, Lisa, Lindsey, Kristy, Corbin, Barbara.
Oh and one final note: Dustin, sweet kisses from pretty ladies will ALWAYS be good for you. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
- CDC.GOV: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/fruits_vegetables.html
- Antioxidants: http://www.healthchecksystems.com/antioxid.htm
- Benefits of Grapefruit: http://www.livestrong.com/article/250181-benefits-of-eating-grapefruit/
- World’s Healthiest Foods: Almonds: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&bid=20
- Go Raw Super Cookies: http://www.goraw.com/c/21/super-cookies-chips
- Savi Seeds: http://myvega.com/products/vega-saviseed/features-benefits
- Stonyfield Greek Yogurt: http://www.stonyfield.com/products/yogurt/greek/nonfat/plain
- Skotidakis Jalapeno Yogurt: http://www.skotidakis.com/en/products/product-dip-jalapeno-24oz.php
- USA Health News: Yogurt: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diet/articles/2011/09/30/greek-yogurt-vs-regular-yogurt-which-is-more-healthful
- Lifeway Kefir: http://lifeway.net/HealthWellness/Nutrition/Organic.aspx
Featured image by SONY DSC