Over the past few weeks my family and I have been trying to develop some healthier habits. One of those habits is choosing healthier snacks. My family loves to snack(especially me and my son, Griffin). I have found that when we have snacks laying around that are already prepared and easy to grab, that's what we go for, whether they are healthy or not. So I am trying to get into the habit of prepping healthier grab and go snacks with hopes that that's what we will grab for rather then the unhealthier and processed fare that has been our go to in the recent past. I have listed below the five items that we have been working on recently to develop some healthier snack habits. Check it out:
1. WEEKLY SNACK INGREDIENT PLANNING
Yes! Snack planning. Just as meal planning is important in eating more balanced and healthier meals, snack planning is just as important, or more important for us at least. This is where a lot of our daytime calories come from so I thought if I am already planning for weekly meals I may as well do the same for snacks to make sure we are getting a more balanced and nutritious choice of snacking items to pick from. Each week my son and I choose 2-3 fruits, 2-3 veggies, a couple of healthier whole grain options that we can either bake together(granola bars, muffins, popcorn mixes, etc) or buy a healthier/cleaner version of, and a few healthier protein options like nut butters, greek yogurt, low sodium deli meats, etc.
This week we decided we would have strawberries and blueberries for our fruit, carrots and tomatoes for our veggies, whole grain muffins that we bought for a grain, angel hair pasta, and for our protein we already have milk, yogurt, cheese and deli meat in our fridge.
2. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO MAKE WITH THESE INGREDIENTS?
Once we decided what we are going to buy, then we figure out what we are going to do with the above ingredients for snacks for the week. The choices of snacks for the week we made were fruit and yogurt parfaits, veggies dipped in ranch dressing, muffins spread with nut butter, fruit smoothies, angel hair pasta with olive oil and steamed veggies, and homemade lunchable type snacks with deli meat and whole grain crackers.
It's important for us to prepare the food items we buy as soon as we get them or we end up not using them and they tend to go to waste. So as soon as the grocery shopping is done I make time(about an hour) to clean and cut up the produce, individually wrap whole grain snacks, make a pot of rice, pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, etc to have on hand for the next few days. This is how we end up eating much healthier and eat appropriate portions as well. A little bit of planning and prep at the beginning of the week can certainly make life a lot easier throughout a busy week and can also make life healthier, too!
3. PRE-PACKAGED SNACKS: FIGURING THESE INTO A BALANCED DIET.
There are a million and one pre-packaged snack options out there to choose from which can make figuring out how to choose the healthier and cleaner versions a bit more confusing. Enter the website: fooducate.com. Or download the free app(Fooducate Nutrition Tracker).This is a wonderful tool to help make smart choices about healthier snacks or meals. They grade over 250,000 foods and give you recommendations for healthier alternatives. They also show the ingredient lists and nutrition labels for further comparison. It's a wonderful site and I highly recommend checking it out! I just started using the app and I'm finding that I like it...it has a lot of the same features as the website; just need to learn how to navigate a little more. I agree that making all homemade snacks can be time consuming and unrealistic in this day and age. But making smart choices about what to buy for grab and go snacks should be a priority. For my family, I try to buy and prep as many simple and clean ingredients as I can fit into a one hour time period. The rest are pre-packaged. But I also have some rules about which already made snacks I buy. I look for snack items that have no more then 10 ingredients in the ingredient list. When I look at the ingredient list I want to be able to pronounce the ingredients and know what they are. I want ingredients that I could buy myself to make the snack with. So, in other words, they should be simple, clean and have no artificial flavors or colors.
4. BE AWARE OF NUTRITION: SNACKS SHOULD HELP MEET NUTRITIONAL NEEDS FOR HEALTHY GROWTH AND MAINTENANCE, NOT ADD EMPTY CALORIES
I think of snacks as a bridge between meals. Snacks should be nutrient dense and should satisfy without being too filling. The perfect mix of macro nutrients to satisfy my family is a snack that has some lean protein, a healthy complex carb and plenty of fiber. Some examples of common snacks around our household include: apples or pears with nut butter, banana quesadillas(whole grain tortilla with nut butter and banana on the inside, toasted in a pan with a little olive oil to help browning), avocado toast, yogurt smoothies or parfaits...we mix it up every week. I like to go on Pinterest to find new ideas often. I find a recipe that looks interesting and then make it my own by adding my own ingredients. Not only do you check all the boxes with healthy macro nutrients like protein, healthy fats and whole grain carbs, you also get a wide variety of micronutrients like calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and A. Eating healthier snacks gives you the sustained fuel to keep you feeling energetic throughout the day and provides your brain with the power it needs to focus and concentrate.
5. BONUS: DON'T DISCREDIT TREATS! THEY CAN BE INCLUDED IN A BALANCED DIET!
Treats can certainly be a part of a balanced meal plan. Food is fuel, YES, but can also be a very emotional part of our lives. Food is there to comfort, celebrate, savor, bring back memories, among so many other emotions and feelings. Treats are part of that enjoyment and should be part of our lives. Whatever you consider a treat, whether its ice cream, chips, mac and cheese, a cultural or family favorite...enjoy it to its fullest! Savor the flavors, textures, aromas! But do in moderation and intentionally...make a treat special and make smart choices along with it to live a most balanced life.
I hope this post was enjoyable and I hope you find some of the words inspirational or useful in some way. Until next time,
To Your Health,