Hungry at 10:00 AM? Mid-afternoon? Between-meal snacking is an excellent opportunity to ramp up nutrients and fill in the blanks—those vitamins, minerals and fiber missing from your regular meals. BUT, choosing the right snacks makes all the difference. Sure, a chocolate bar sounds nice at 2:00 PM, but is it worth the blood sugar spike that leads to insulin output and sodium retention by the kidneys? And the short-term energy boost you get doesn’t last long, causing you to crash around 4:00 PM. Not so appetizing now, right? Snacks should be wholesome and delicious mini-meals that keep your blood sugar steady. Check out the suggestions below – put them in your drawer today and you’ll pave the way to healthy, happy, satisfied snacking for a long time.
Whole Grain Crispbread Crackers (such as Kavli, Ryvita, Doctor Kracker, and Wasa)
Hearty, whole grains, whole seeds; need I say more? Fact is, whole grains are rich in antioxidants, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium – all powerful nutrients that help prevent heart disease, diabetes, certain forms of cancer, and obesity. For added calcium and protein, spoon a dollop of cottage cheese (any variety) on top.
Tuna or Salmon Pouch
Shelf-stable tuna and salmon pouches make getting a dose of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and high-quality protein incredibly easy. Opt for the 2.6-ounce pouch of tuna, which has just 70 calories and a whopping 17 grams of protein. The 3-ounce pouch of salmon dishes up 21 grams of protein (for 120 calories). Both options keep you satisfied for hours. If you need a little crunch, put the seafood on the crackers above.
Sliced Apple with Nut Butter
Choose your favorite nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew) and smear it on fresh apple slices. Crisp apples pair beautifully with nuts in their creamy form. Even better, you’ll get a decent amount of antioxidants, fiber, protein, and unsaturated fats. For variety, try dipping the apple in seed butters too, such as hemp, sesame, pumpkin, and apricot.
I buy nuts in bulk a lot. I head to the store, get an ample amount of almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts, and/or hazelnuts and then, when I get home, I portion them out and store them in snack-size bags. This is a sure-fire way to make sure I always have nuts on hand – either in my desk or in the car. If you’d rather save time, look for pre-portioned nuts and nut mixes next to the regular nuts in the grocery store. All nuts are brimming with in protein, fiber and heart-protective unsaturated fats.
As is the case with nuts, I buy dried fruit in bulk and then portion it out. I also mix different varieties of dried fruit to create a custom medley, something like apricot, mango, pineapple, blueberry, and cherry. Sometimes I’ll get crazy and throw dried plums in there, too. Create your own unique blend and enjoy the bounty of vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber it delivers. Another bonus: naturally sweet dried fruit helps cure a raging sweet tooth, making it easier to resist that chocolate bar.
Whole Grain Cereal
Don’t relegate cereal to the morning bowl, drowning in milk. Low-sugar, whole grain cereals provide a satisfying crunch and are bona fide multi-vitamins when you consider in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber they supply. Read labels and choose varieties with the word “WHOLE” in the ingredient list (i.e., whole grain wheat, whole seeds).
Even if you don’t have a microwave at work, you can make instant oatmeal with the hot water from the coffee maker. One bowl satisfies hunger, protects your heart and dishes up nice amount of fiber. For added crunch and satisfaction, add the nuts and dried fruit from above (they’re in your desk anyway!).
This creamy fruit dishes up plenty of heart-healthy fats and a surprising amount of protein (9-11 grams in one delightful avocado). To prepare the fruit for snacking, simply half the avocado lengthwise, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Eat the avocado alone or put it on the whole grain crackers above.
All seeds are nutritional powerhouses, brimming with fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But when it comes to snacking, it’s hard to grapple with hemp, chia, poppy, and sesame seeds! For your desk, I recommend pumpkin, sunflower and pepita.
I’m a self-professed popcorn junkie, and I don’t mind saying it because popcorn is a healthy whole grain that’s loaded with fiber. Microwave popcorn is convenient but has its drawbacks, namely PFC’s (perfluorinated compounds), chemicals sprayed inside the bags that can suppress immune function in children and cause cancer in animals. Thankfully, most manufacturers are working on phasing it out. To make your own microwave popcorn, put 3 to 4 tablespoons of plain kernels in a brown paper lunch bag, fold over the top of the bag twice to seal it closed, and microwave for about 2 minutes, or until popping slows to a few seconds between pops (time will vary depending on your microwave).
Robin Miller has been a TV personality, food writer and nutritionist since 1990 and she is the author of ten books, including Robin Takes 5 for Busy Families, Robin Takes 5, and the bestselling cookbook Quick Fix Meals. Her popular show, “Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller” aired on Food Network for 5 years and she has multiple weekly blogs, Robin’s Healthy Take, on www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats. “Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller” is currently airing on Great American Country Channel. You can view her website at: www.robinmillercooks.com.