07 March 2013

Healthy Snacks

I snack a lot. Seriously, I eat constantly from about 8am-4pm. And on top of that, snacking is my coping mechanism when I'm stressed out or anxious about something (which is basically all the time) . My being aware that I do this, though, is half of the battle. What I've chosen to do is, instead of fighting my natural inclination, I give myself healthy options to choose from. I also eat small meals instead of big ones so that my snacks are instead of meal-food, not in addition to. This way my daily intake is still reasonable. Here are some healthy options I use to satisfy my snack addiction that I've come to love:

Dried fruit! This is a biggie with me. I put it in oatmeal, on yogurt, in baked goods or most of the time, just eat it plain. It jazzes up so many things and gets you some of those fruit vitamins, minerals and fiber at the same time. Plus, it's just plain delicious! You do have to watch the sugar content with some brands as it can be pretty high. I buy the majority of my dried fruit at Trader Joe's and it is just good ole fruit for the most part.

Coconut! All varieties - unsweetened shredded (so good in oatmeal), roasted chips (Trader Joe's, also good in oatmeal) or just sweetened coconut flesh. Yes, coconut has a high content of fat but, like avocados, it has good natural fats that your body needs, although it is best consumed in moderation.

Fresh fruit! As far as I know, no one ever got fat by eating too much fresh fruit. I tend to gorge on fruit when it's in season, especially peaches here in Georgia during the summer. Try to buy locally when you can. You'll be amazed at how much more flavor it has.

Dark chocolate! Good quality dark chocolate. If I'm craving chocolate, I'm not going to bother with anything less. I generally keep Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips around for baking and so I grab a handful (or three) of those.

Tortilla chips and salsa! Homemade salsa would make this an even healthier option, but between the time spent chopping veggies and the price of produce, we think it's worth it to buy jarred. Still, eating tortilla chips is a much better option than alternatives - potato chips, chex mix, cheez-its...

Granola bars! Again, homemade would be better but with the two little ones, we just haven't gotten around to doing it. Still, a 100 calorie granola bar is a much better option than grabbing a candy bar, cookie, etc.

Nuts! We are partial to pistachios but any handful of nuts is a great snack. Almonds, walnuts, pecans - they're all full of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and also fiber that help fill you up between meals. Like coconut (and really, everything), nuts should be eaten in moderation because of the high calorie content. Obviously a big handful of nuts is good for you. Eating the whole bag likely negates the benefits, despite being delicious :)

Homemade baked goods! There could be some discussion on this one, but I love to bake and it is a satisfying and peaceful experience to me. There are many days when I am craving something sweet (cookies, brownies, cake...) and so I just make it because I have a pantry that's always stocked with baking supplies. The way I see it, if I make whatever I'm craving rather than ignoring it, I will satisfy my immediate craving with the benefit of knowing what ingredients are in it. If I don't make it, I'll generally search the house for alternatives and end up eating worse things or a larger amount of something to try to satisfy it, and in the end I probably still won't be satisfied. One of the little things I do to make my baking just a touch healthier is to use white whole wheat flour in place of all purpose flour in many recipes. I actually like the flavor of the white whole wheat better (it's not nearly as strongly flavored as regular whole wheat flour, which I don't care for) and it's better for you than all purpose. My local chain grocery store carries King Arthur flour brand (which I highly recommend) and I find it's comparable in price to the others.

Pretzel thins! These are one of the more processed things that I eat, but I figure at least they're baked rather than fried. Sometimes I just need to eat something crunchy and the dried fruit and granola bars and even cookies don't do it for me. Enter, pretzel thins. Thank goodness Costco carries these - my toddler and I go through them like it's our job. They're good alone, with some kind of cheese or dip or, my favorite, dipped in nutella! The key to the latter option is to portion out a spoonful of nutella in a little bowl and not refill it when it's gone. It's good for those chocolate cravings though, since a spoonful of nutella is probably better than a giant bowl full of ice cream or a handful of cookies. Man, now I have the munchies again...

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