7 Tasty Snacks That Are Healthy Too

The word “snack” often conjures up images of potato chips, candy bars, soda, and other high-calorie snacks. Snacks don’t have to be filled with fat and sugar to satisfy your hunger. Fruit, nuts and grains are nature’s delicious, healthy snacks. Natural snacks travel just as well as convenience foods, such as a bag of chips. Take them to the office, on your walk and keep some in your car for those long waits in rush-hour traffic.

Trail mix isn’t just for hikers and campers! It’s a delicious mix of fruit, seeds and nuts filled with energy-restoring nutrients and natural sugars. You can mix your own or buy ready-to-eat mixes. Try to find dried fruits and nuts that are free from preservatives. Select natural seeds and nuts instead of the roasted, flavored variety. You can mix almonds, walnuts, cashews, dried banana slices, apricots, raisins, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries for a healthy, snack flavor explosion.

Cheese is a great snack to take the edge off your hunger without adding too many extra calories to your diet. Try a slice of brie on a fresh slice of apple for a deliciously sweet, healthy snack. Try a variety of cheeses to find your favorite. Cut small cubes of different cheeses, such as cheddar, muenster, and Swiss, and place them in a plastic bag. Enjoy with whole grain baked crackers. Avoid processed cheese, such as the individually wrapped slices.

Fresh berries are loaded with nutrients and beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants attach to and remove harmful free radicals that can cause cell damage. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are delicious alone or mixed with natural fruit juice for a tasty, healthy fruit salad. Bananas travel well in your purse, briefcase or backpack for a quick snack on the run or at your desk.

If you want a more substantial snack between lunch and dinner, try apple slices (or celery sticks) with peanut butter. Pack some apple slices and a travel-size container of peanut butter or place some peanut butter into a small plastic container. Spread the peanut butter on the apple slices or scoop up the tasty, protein rich peanut butter using the apple slice. Apples are rich in vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Peanut butter provides extra fiber.

Eating healthier snacks does not mean you have to sacrifice flavor and texture. Create a delicious dip by layering black beans, guacamole and low-fat or fat-free sour cream for a low-fat, healthy snack filled with flavor. Shred some low-fat cheddar cheese on top for extra taste without adding too many extra calories. Scoop the dip with low-fat baked tortilla chips.

Potatoes are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Baked potato skins can be a healthy, tasty snack if you avoid loading them up with high-calorie, high-fat toppings. Top baked potato skins with low-fat cheese, low-fat or fat-free sour cream, tomatoes, chives or even olives. Three or four potato skins will satisfy your snack craving and hold you over until dinner time.

Even potato chips can be a healthy snack. You can make your own healthy potato chips by frying thinly sliced potatoes in olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and you have a delicious, healthy snack. If you don’t have time to make your own, select baked, not fried, potato chips. Your local health food store probably carries a natural potato chip without preservatives or additives.


Sensible Snacking

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Americans really enjoy their snack foods. Vending machines are located just about everywhere and contain sugary drinks, chocolate bars, salty chips and pretzels and candy snacks. Convenience stores and many grocery stores place the candy bars and small bags of chips close to the checkout line or beside the cash register where you will be tempted to make an impulse buy. These snacks can contribute hundreds of empty calories to your diet. According to the USDA snacks can amount to nearly 600 calories per day. Many people will consume a full meal’s worth of calories every day just by snacking. Eating between meals does not have to be a diet disaster. You can eat a healthy, nutritious snack between meals that can help boost your metabolism to aid in weight loss. The key to losing or maintaining your weight and still enjoy between-meal snacks is to snack sensibly.
If you get hungry between meals, you should eat a healthy snack so that you do not over-eat at mealtime.  Snacks that will curb your hunger without adding too many extra calories will contain fiber and protein.   Peanut butter on whole wheat crackers or on a stalk of celery will ease your hunger pangs and provide nutritional protein, carbohydrates and fiber to help you feel full. Raisins, walnuts, almonds, dried cherries and apricots or fresh fruits, such as apple slices, a pear, an orange or a handful of grapes are rich in nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. One-half cup of low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit, like blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, can help you feel less hungry while providing your body with important vitamins and calcium. 
Don’t keep a bowl of chips, pretzels, popcorn or candy on the table in the television room! Mindless snacking can add hundreds of calories to your diet and you won’t even realize how much you have eaten. Replace your high-calories television snacks with healthy alternatives like dried fruits, nuts, granola and fruits. Low-fat cheese and whole wheat crackers is a healthy alternative to popcorn and chips. Cut out the sodas when you snack. Drink a glass of water before your snack to help you feel full between meals. 

How to Avoid Mindless Eating

It’s easy to snack without thinking about it. Some of us do it in front of the television, while talking on the telephone or while sitting at our desk at work. That bowl of potato chips or popcorn is just too tasty to ignore. Once you start munching without thinking, it is easy to eat an entire bag of chips or a bowl full of popcorn before you realize what you have done. A few simple changes can help you avoid mindless munching, which can lead to excess calories and weight gain.
Photo Credit: Renee Comet PD
Remove all candy, chips and other fat-laden or sugary snacks from your television room. The best practice is to not eat while watching television. If you must snack while watching your favorite television programs, choose grapes, raisins, nuts, baked whole grain crackers and cheese, fresh vegetables or sliced fruit. Instead of sipping on a soda, have a glass of green tea on ice. Keep a bowl of mixed nuts or your favorite nuts on the table on the television room instead of chips or cookies. 
Clean out your desk at work and give away or toss out all the fattening, sugary and greasy snacks you have hidden in your special snack drawer. Try to avoid snacking while working on your computer. Set a specific time for your snacks and stick to the schedule.  A light, healthy snack in the early morning before lunch and again in the afternoon can help keep your metabolism stimulated and keep you from over-eating at lunch or dinner. Replace unhealthy snacks with small packages of nuts, granola bars, dried fruit or fresh fruit options. Stay away from the soda machine at work. Ask your employer to offer low-calorie, sugar-free alternatives to sweet soda or bring your own drinks. Keep some bottled water in your desk and drink that instead of hitting the soda machine. If your company serves donuts or other sweets at meetings, drink a glass of water and eat a piece of fruit before the meeting, so that you will not feel the urge to pick up a sugary treat to munch on while the manager drones on about sales figures. 

Pay attention to the foods you put in your mouth. Rather than mindlessly grabbing a handful of whatever is in the bowl in front of you, stop and look at the food. If it’s a handful of candy or chips, put it down. Move the bowl out of your reach or get a healthy snack instead. 

Energy Boosting Snacks

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Do you feel drained of energy in the afternoon? Fatigue in the afternoon is not uncommon. Some people go for a quick sugar fix to boost their energy. Sugary snacks, like candy bars and soda, will boost your energy in the short term, but you will crash after a short time and may even feel more fatigued than before. Sugary snacks and sodas also add unwanted calories and caffeine. Natural sugars and carbohydrates can give you a boost of energy that lasts without the crash. You will also enjoy the added benefits of nutritional vitamins, minerals and trace elements that your body needs. 
Nuts and seeds are high in fiber and protein that will help you feel full and boost your energy level. Walnuts and almonds are delicious and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids that help boost your brain. Almonds also contain manganese, vitamin E, magnesium, copper and vitamin B2. Manganese is an important trace element that improves sleep, helps your muscles to relax, boosts your immune system and helps improve your overall mood. The protein in nuts helps to stabilize your blood sugar and is slow to digest. A handful of nuts in the afternoon can boost your energy and help to curb your appetite.
Whole grain snacks such as granola bars or crackers contain many nutrients and complex carbohydrates that can help boost your energy and relieve afternoon fatigue. Whole wheat snacks contain iron, protein, manganese, magnesium, fiber, and vitamins B1, B2 and B3. B-vitamins help fight fatigue, stabilize blood sugar and maintain energy levels. Complex carbohydrates are digested and absorbed slowly, which means your energy boost can last for hours. 

A cup of yogurt can provide a boost of energy and calcium, protein, zinc and phosphorus. Most brands of yogurt also contain vitamins B2, B5 and B12. Yogurt is easy to digest and quickly absorbed by the body. You will get a quick boost of energy, which will last much longer than a sugar boost from a candy bar or soda. Yogurt also contains tyrosine, which is an  amino acid that stimulates the production of neurotransmitters in the brain for improved mood and brain function. Add some fresh fruit to a cup of yogurt for extra natural sugar energy and nutrients.