I have always loved snacks! But I’ve become more thoughtful around my snacks over the years and actually these days I try to limit my snacks all together. Planned snacks however are very different from simply “snacking”. To me, snacking is akin to grazing, which basically means you’re picking at food all day long without much thought into what you’re actually snacking on. A planned snack on the other hand has been well thought out and serves a purpose. If the goal is to space your meals about 4-5 hours apart there may very well be times when the stretch is longer than that. A good example is dinner. When lunch is around noon and dinner is not until 6 or later you may very well need a snack to help close the gap. Snacks should take the edge off, help you focus, balance your blood sugar, and give you energy. Here are some of my favorite healthy snacks.
Homemade Trail Mix
Combine your favorite raw nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. You can also add-in coconut flakes and/or dark chocolate chips. I like to have my kids help me make up a mason jar full of trail mix that we all can snack on throughout the week. A snack-bag of trail mix plus a banana has been a great post swim practice snack for my oldest daughter.
This takes the mid-afternoon container of yogurt (think yoplait) to a whole new level. Start with plain whole-fat yogurt add in some seasonal fruit, nuts, and seeds. If you need a little extra sweetness you can drizzle some raw honey over the top or even shaved dark chocolate for a more decadent snack. You can also easily prepare this ahead of time in a mason jar and take it on the go.
Quick Oats with Nut Butter
This became a work-day staple for me in the winter and my kids too quickly took a liking to this as an after-school snack. Rather than make the oats from scratch, as I would typically do in the morning, I usually just use a package of plain instant oats. Warm up some hot water, pour it over the oats, add a spoonful of nut butter (almond, walnut, cashew all make really nice additions). I find that the nut butter makes it sweet enough that I don’t need any extra sweetener. If you do though, you can drizzle a bit of raw honey or pure maple syrup over the top.
Smoothies are great as meals or snacks. Often if I’m just using it as a snack I won’t add in as much protein or fat. Click here for my basic smoothie recipe.
Curry Hummus with Veggie Strips
Now of course regular hummus is just as fabulous for this snack but because I try to sneak in spices wherever I can I like to make it a curry hummus. You can certainly make your own hummus if you like, it’s not that hard, but assuming you’re starting with a container of hummus, simply remove the hummus from the container and place in a bowl. Add 1 tsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground curry to the bowl. Mix together and voila you have “fancy” curry hummus. Serve with a rainbow of sliced veggies (carrots, bell pepper, tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, celery, jicama, etc). This also can easily be taken on the go. Simply serve out some of the hummus into a small glass jar and add in a baggie of assorted veggies.
Veggie Chips with Curry Yogurt
You could definitely make these chips at home if you are so inclined but veggie chips (beet, kale, string bean, sweet potato, etc) are also really easy to find now at many grocery stores. Look for brands without a lot of added ingredients; the simpler the better (veg, oil, salt). For the curry yogurt, simply add some ground curry to a serving of plain whole-fat yogurt; 1/8-1/4 tsp curry powder to every 2 Tbsp yogurt.
This is currently the favorite after-school snack for my kids. The basic recipe is just 1 banana sliced into coins with 1 Tbsp of nut butter drizzled over the top. Sometimes they like to add some almond milk to the bowl and top it off with granola. Personally I like to sprinkle cinnamon over the top.
There are an endless assortment of variations you can do with avocado toast. Of course the most basic recipe is adding 1/8-1/4 of an avocado on top of a slice of whole grain (or gluten-free) toast. For those of you avoiding grains you could do a variation of this idea with sweet potato. Simply slice a sweet potato really thin into a bread-sized portion, place it in the toaster on high, and toast. Repeat several times until the sweet potato is “toasted”. Then add the avocado. Yum!
If you like hard-boiled eggs I suggest you boil 6-12 at a time and keep them at the ready in the fridge. They make a really great high protein snack and you can easily grab a couple on your way out the door if needed.
This was a go-to snack for me when I was following a no-grain diet for awhile. You can use any sliced deli meat you like for this but stick with nitrate-free. Take 1 slice of your meat and wrap it around a jicama stick. You can eat them as is or dip in a bit of whole-grain mustard.
Homemade Protein/Nut Bars
There are many great bars available but you definitely have to shop around a bit. Read the labels and choose ones with an ingredient list that is as simple as possible; think nuts and dried fruit without much else added. They are also fairly easy to make at home though and can be another fun project to do with the kiddos. Give this recipe a try from Real Simple: No-Bake Lemon Chia Bars
I love edamame! They’re so tasty, easy to transport, and filling thanks to their high protein and high fiber content. Another great thing about edamame is if you’re out and about and you forgot to pack yourself a snack you can generally find a small package of them available at any grocery store or market that serves sushi.
The other thing I will admit to doing is snacking as I’m preparing dinner. Sometimes it’s just too hard to not start snacking or taking bites of what I’m preparing; especially if I’m coming home starving (which does happen on occasion). And admittedly these are not planned snacks. They are open up the pantry and pull out what’s easy and looks good kind of snacks. Ugh! Eventually I learned how to combat this mindless pre-dinner snacking. Here are the two tricks I started using to help me stick with healthier options and not immediately go for the cheese, crackers, and wine!
Before I start cooking I make a mug of tea or warm lemon water to sip on.
I pull out some raw veggies (carrots, radishes, and bell peppers are my favorites) and snack on those as I start chopping and cooking.
These two simple tricks take the edge off the hunger monster, prevent me from splurging on heavier foods, and keep my appetite focused on dinner. There’s nothing worse then filling up on snacks and then not even being hungry for dinner once it’s ready. Yep, done that way too many times.
Take Home Message
Ideally snacks are planned right alongside your other meals in your weekly meal planning. Prep ahead as you’re able so you always have healthy snacks ready to go for you and your family. Snacks definitely serve a purpose and when used intentionally can be an essential piece to a healthy eating plan. You’re turn!! Share in the comments some of your favorite healthy go-to snacks. And for more healthy tips and tricks, delivered straight to your Inbox each week, make sure you Join the Tribe. (this article was first published on 5/18/17)