Truism: It's generally better for our health to eat generally better.
One important concept I support though is, "never say never". Here and there, it's fine to eat your favorite foods no matter what. This includes snacking. Ice cream, potato chips, cake, cookies and so on are all long-time favorites. It's important to enjoy what you eat and to not feel deprived. Deprivation ultimately leads to cravings, binging, regret and frustration.
Having said that, for the more-often-than-not times when you want to snack but still "eat generally better", the options abound! Healthier snacking does involve ahead of time preparation, creativity, insight and openness.
First things first, consider your current snacking habits. What do you eat? Some folks love the creamy, fatty texture and sweetness of ice cream. Others love salt and crunch and derive great pleasure munching on chips, pretzels, etc. And who could deny the happy moments chocolate and candy bring to children and adults of all ages?
Whichever snacks you enjoy, look for healthier substitutions. You really may be pleasantly surprised over how easy it is and how tasty it all can be. After considering your fave treats, go to your local health food store or Whole Foods Market and purchase your alternative snack items ahead of time. There are guidelines to consider when you do this however. I'll go over those in just a bit.
Having a supply of healthier snacks at home or in the office, sets you up for greater success. Being able to enjoy a daily treat while reducing health risks associated with the consumption of goodies is a great goal! When you leave home, take a snack along so you're not caught later wanting something and being without. That can easily lead to unintentional garbage snacking.
If you snack at work, (and so many of us do), I recommend you keep your own supply of healthier snacks in the office. Quite unfortunately, even to this day, office vending machines contain blatant junk food and/or misrepresented healthy snacks. You may even want to purchase a small refrigerator, (not too far-fetched an idea when you think about it), which is perfect for storing snacks which need to be chilled.
So, what are healthier snack options? Below is a list of treats I snack on. All bring me Good & Plenty amounts of satisfaction.
Creamy & Sweet:
Chocolate Pudding - This is a must try and really easy to make. My recipe, which I'll provide soon, contains avocado, nut butter, cacao powder, collagen powder, dark maple syrup, etc. For the time being, see Mike Geary's recipe here.
Chia Seed Pudding - This is another winner that's super easy to make. Mix 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with 1/2 cup of coconut or almond milk. Add a little vanilla, cinnamon, cacao nibs and 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup. Let sit for several hours or overnight. When ready to eat, give it a good stirring. Click here for my recipe.
Optionally, buy Chia Pod Vanilla Flavor if you want something a bit more convenient. They're excellent tasting containing only a few, great ingredients. The cups even come with their own spoon! I add vanilla, cinnamon and cacao nuts for extra crunch and flavor.
Nut/Seed butter - Individually-wrapped, Artisana Organics brand nut/seed butters are in stores and available online. The butters are very easy to transport and enjoy anywhere. Stick with almond, walnut, pumpkin seed, etc. as peanut butter is a far less healthy option.1
Coconut Yogurt - Anita's plain yogurt is non-dairy and made with very few ingredients. If you're okay with coconut, this is a great option. Add some fresh, organic berries or crushed walnuts, cinnamon or cacao nibs. Yum!
Green Banana - These guys have a bad rap. Green bananas have a much lower sugar content compared to yellow or brown-spotted ones, and they taste excellent to boot! Sprinkle a little cinnamon for an extra treat. Please note, green bananas are also excellent following a vigorous workout.
Olives - I love olives and I find, when I'm looking to pick. eating about 5 in a sitting to be very satisfying. I frequently buy pitted, mixed olives in olive oil. Try adding a few slices of lemon into the olive container for extra flavor and freshness. Yum!
SeaSnax - I'm generally not a seaweed fan, but I love this organic, light, crispy and onion-flavored super healthy snack option! Great nutrition and taste!
Roasted Bacon Bitz - I use Applegate Organic Uncured Sunday Bacon for this treat. Check this out:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a roasting pan with foil and place a rack inside the pan. Lay 2-3 slices of bacon on top the rack. Place the pan in the oven and let roast for approximately 40 min. You want the bacon to get crispy. Once the bacon is done, remove from the pan and gently breakup with a fork. You can add these crispy bacon bits into a zip lock baggy for a great afternoon snack.
Caution: This is so good and fun to crunch on that it's hard to stop munching. Make 1 serving at a time! Great protein booster!
Coconut - Fresh or Smiles - Check your local deli for freshly cut coconut. It absolutely satisfies our innate need to chew.2 Also, look for CoconutSmiles which are sweet tasting, though without any added sugar, and loaded with potassium! Great treat alternative!
Raw, Unsalted Nuts/Seeds - Mix it up with almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, etc. Pumpkin and hemp seeds are also tasty and excellent for fat and protein sources. A handful of mixed nuts and seeds is a perfect snack!
Primal Kitchen Bar with grass-fed collagen - This is one of the best bars available in my opinion and can easily be ordered on Amazon. I eat the Chocolate Hazelnut or Darlk Chocolate Almond variations. Low sugar and carbs, great chew factor and all of the few ingredients contained within are A+ rated! Very satisfying overall.
The New Primal Beef Jerky - Not all beef jerky is created equal I can assure you of that. This one with grass-fed beef and other excellent ingredients is, if you like beef jerky, the BOMB! I love their Spicy version.
Granny Smith green apple - It's autumn and the perfect time for apples. Always go organic and buy apples that are smaller-sized when you can.
Additional Sweet Tooth Options:
Green & Black's Organic, 85% Dark Chocolate - One serving equals 12 small pieces and there are 2 1/2 servings per bar. A great low sugar snack. Moreover, cacao is an excellent source of anti-oxidants. Boom!
Frozen Organic Raspberries - Feel like a piece of candy? I have just the solution. Try popping some frozen berries into your mouth. I love Cascadian Farm Organic raspberries, but the strawberries and blueberries are excellent as delicious well.
Option: When in season, fresh, organic berries can't be beat for a terrific snack. Combine them with a few nuts and you'll be way ahead of the game.
Chocolate Fat Bombs - These tasty treats are just what they advertise. They are the bomb! Check out my recipe here. Or, buy Chocolith. The marble-sized chocolate fudge like balls are sinfully delicious- minus the sin!
Dip organic 85% dark chocolate pieces, organic apple slices or green banana into raw, nut/seed butter.
Create a wrap:
- Applegate Organics Roast Beef slice or 2 wrapped around a naturally fermented Bubbies dill pickle, or,
- Nuna Naturals Organic Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast slices with organic apple or pear slices, or,
- Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon by Spence & Co. contains zero sugar and is sky high in omega 3 fatty acids. I eat a slice or 2 with freshly squeezed lemon and wrap around wild arugula. This is very, very good!
Albacore Wild Tuna from Wild Planet - This line-caught tuna fish is low in mercury and super high in protein. Splash a few dashes of apple cider vinegar on top for added pleasure.
Carrot sticks/celery/jicama/fennel/fresh peppers, etc. with hummus, guacamole or fresh salsa is fresh and delicious.
I've given a fairly substantial example above of the healthier foods I enjoy snacking on. I'm certain though that many of you are wondering about cheese. Truth be told, as much as I love cheese, these days due to my casomorphin condition, I'm eating far less dairy. Should you want to add cheese to your snack list, I recommend you go with goat or sheep milk cheeses. Both are less troubling to most people's digestion.
Also, buy cheese that comes from animals that eat well and live with reduced stress. (Same thing for dairy yogurts or kefir.) Cheese from pasture-raised and 100% grass fed animals will absolutely be healthier. Moreover, I suggest eating cheese that is aged at least 30-days when the amount of lactose becomes greatly reduced.
Final Notes to Healthier Snacking
The very best way to make sure you're eating a snack that is truly healthier is to read the ingredient list. Also, look for the DV amount of sugar grams, etc. contained in each serving. Sometimes it's hard to even locate the ingredient list on a packaged snack item and frequently it's in very small print. But, for your health's sake, persevere and look.
Once you find the list, please note a) how many ingredients there are - more than 5 is too many, b) what is the first ingredient - ingredients are listed in the order of quantity from most to least, c) look for sugar in all of its forms - sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave, dextrose, honey, dates, etc.
In short, any word ending in 'ose' is sugar. Food manufacturers try to hide the high quantity of sugar they add to their products by varying the words used for sugar. Furthermore, if there are ingredients in your snack that you don't recognize or can't pronounce, become very skeptical and suspicious. Moreover, prepackaged goodies frequently contain more than 15 ingredients! That's not good. Never has been, never will be.
Beyond ingredients, I also carefully review the Nutrition Facts and the listing of Amount/Serving % Daily Value (DV) of sugar, (best if 6g or less), carbs, (10g or less), protein, (15g or more), sodium/salt, (200mg or less) and fiber, (8 grams or more). Not every snack will contain all these elements but the two which reign supreme in my book are sugar and carb levels. I always stick with snacks that contain low levels of these.
Finally, while marketing terms on snacks can be deliberately deceiving, I do seek out organic, gluten-free and non-GMO on packaged items. Having said that though, just because an item such as cookies indicates Gluten-Free on its box, that doesn't automatically translate to healthier snacking. Nope. If it's loaded with sugar and carbs, sometimes junk is junk, even when gluten-free, etc.
I hope this article has been helpful in your efforts towards healthier snacking. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.
If you've enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and family!
1 As per Chris Kresser in, "Are Legumes Paleo? And Does it Really Matter?", due to a variety of risks associated with peanuts including exposure to aflotoxin, reduced consumption of peanut intake or avoiding peanuts entirely is recommended. (www.chriskresser.com, 2/27/14).
2 As per Marc David, Executive Director, Institute for the Psychology of Eating, notes in his article, "The Psychology of Chewing", crunching and chewing are primal activities, inborn urges dating back to the first life forms. Both are natural outlets for inborn aggression.