February is National Snack Food Month and you might be wondering why this is something a healthy person would celebrate. Traditionally, we think of snack foods as those unhealthy “junk” foods that are loaded with calories and fats, but the fact is this doesn’t have to be the case. In addition, many people shun the idea of snacking entirely–believing that snacking will cause them to gain weight. This week I want to show you how snacking can be a healthy part of your diet depending on what you eat and how you incorporate it into your daily plan.
Let’s start with the overall idea of snacking. It’s not a bad thing! When snacking on the right foods (and within limits) it can help you to keep your metabolism regulated, keep your energy levels up and keep you from overeating at regular mealtimes. You’ll find that many diet plans actually provide for two or three healthy snacks per day. This will keep you feeling satisfied so that you don’t end up cheating or giving up on the plan entirely because you’re feeling hungry all the time.
The key to successful snacking is what you eat for your snack. So, gone are the cupcakes, the chips or the cookies. They are all loaded with calories, fat, sodium and little or no nutritional value. What you’re looking for are snacks that will provide a boost of energy with minimal calorie and fat impact, but are higher in fiber and vitamins. Fruit and vegetables are your best options in these categories. What I like to do is pair them with a protein so that I’m feeling full longer as proteins take longer for the body to break down. Some of my favorite snacks are grapes and string cheese, celery and low-fat cream cheese or apples and peanut butter. These are all simple to grab and go–little prep time needed and they keep me satisfied until my next meal. I went searching for some healthy snack foods and I found a few great ideas I know I’ll be using.
This is an updated version of my apples and peanut butter idea, but also using raisins and oats. Still simple, but I’ll bet this one is even better!
Guacamole stuffed eggs are a great idea. I make my own guacamole, but store bought would work fine too. You’ll get the heart healthy fat from the avocado in this snack.
Tomato, fresh mozzarella and avocado stacks are simple and delicious. Top with some cracked black pepper and, if you choose, a fresh basil leaf.
I love this idea! Take some yogurt and add dried fruit and nuts. Then freeze and break off into chunks and you’ll have a yogurt “candy” of sort. The variations are endless, simply use your favorite yogurt flavor (remember to use fat free or low-fat) and your favorite dried fruit and nuts. Looks like they went with vanilla yogurt and dried strawberries with pistachios in this version–yum!
I hope these suggestions inspire you to start snacking if you aren’t already and, if you are, to add more healthy versions to your day.