Many snack foods get their flavor from one or more of the snacking “trinity”: fat, salt or sugar. Based on the growing demand for healthier choices, commercial snack makers have created healthier versions of traditional chips, cookies and other impulse foods. You can combine foods such as nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables with healthy dips and spreads to create nutritious, sweet, crunchy and healthy snacks.
Many hard-core health addicts will find fault with almost any snack list that isn’t tofu and sprouts, but are you really going to eat cardboard when you need a snack? If you can’t eat 100% “healthy” at snack time, make a point of eating “healthier.”
Combine healthy whole foods with low-fat cheeses, nut butters and other items to create tasty, nutritious snacks. Serve apple slices with low-fat cheese for a sweet and savory snack. Put protein-rich peanut butter on celery. Add granola or nuts to low-fat yogurt to add crunch to a creamy fruit-filled treat. Make your own trail mix with raisins, nuts and dried fruit. Add berries to low-fat cottage cheese for a protein-rich, vitamin-filled snack.
Ooooooooh! Fruit has fructose (sugar)! Peanut is high in calories! Low-fat cheese has additives! Get real. Fresh fruit is better than a candy bar. A reasonable amount of peanut butter won’t load you up with saturated or trans fats. And a little processed cheese on an apple is better than a bag of potato chips.
Chips and Crackers
Commercial chips and crackers get much of their flavor from deep-frying, added salt and saturate and trans fat. Look for healthy chips that are baked, not fried. Read nutrition labels to check sodium and fat levels. Avoid snacks made with saturated and trans fats. Choose chips and crackers made from whole grains, rather than refined wheat flour.
Cut the calories and refined carbohydrates by substituting lettuce leaves for bread, rolls or tortillas. Serve a tuna salad snack by using fat-free mayonnaise with this heart-healthy fish that’s high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Add grapes or raisins and slivered almonds to chicken breast meat and bind with a fat-free mayo for a wrap that’s lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than a traditional chicken salad sandwich served on bread.
Coat almonds or other nuts with an egg white wash, then sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mix and bake for a healthy snack. Nuts are an excellent source of protein and recommended by MayoClinic.com as a cholesterol-fighting food. Use just enough sugar to add some sweetness.
If you’re grazing, or spreading your meals among five to six meals and snacks each day, have a packet of instant oatmeal for your mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Oats are an excellent source of dietary fiber, making it a healthful, cholesterol-fighting food. Add a few raisins or grapes instead of sugar for sweetness.
Bean and Avocado Dips
Hummus and black bean dips are protein-rich, healthy dips for your chips, crackers and veggies. Hummus is made from chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, and is low in cholesterol and high in iron. Read the nutrition labels on commercial hummus products to choose one low in fat. Black beans are also high in protein and one of the lowest legumes in carbohydrates. They are also rich in iron. Avocados provide healthy fats and are lower in sugar and higher in protein than other fruits (yeah, it’s a fruit!) and good source of several vitamins.