7 Healthy Snacks in No Time

July 14, 2017
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

The fastest way to health is through the stomach. Which makes perfect sense—eating the right foods gives your body all the fuel and tools it needs to run at peak efficiency. And eating poorly not only robs your body of key vitamins, but often inundates you with toxins as well. Eating right is a one-two punch of health.

However, as anyone who’s ever been on a diet knows, it can be extremely hard to stick to it over time. When you’re just getting started, your goals are clearly in mind, and all your willpower is already marshaled and at full strength, so it might seem easy.

But sooner or later—as your zeal fades—chances are good you’ll break your diet. It happens to everyone. Diets that are about denial (low fat…low carb…low calorie, etc.) are impossible to hold forever. That’s why, to truly make a difference, you can’t constantly deny yourself the foods you love. You have to replace those foods with other, equally delicious options. Or, another way to put it, you have to delete the bad habits and replace them with good ones. Today, I want to talk about seven healthy snacking habits you can use to replace bad ones.

Healthy Eating Habit #1: Go Nutty!

Nuts are one of the healthiest, most wholesome foods around. They’re full of protein, nutrients, and have a big store of healthy fats as well.

That fat means you can’t just eat a bowl of nuts and be happy. Portion size is very important—as few as 23 almonds equals a full serving, with almost 200 calories.

I’m not big on calorie counting, but it works as a quick and dirty way to see that nuts are a nutrient dense food.

In addition, you want raw, or dry roasted, nuts—low or no salt if possible. Anything that’s cooked up in oil, or has all sorts of artificial flavors added, is a crapshoot at best.

But naked nuts, in sensible portions, are a great option as a snack. They’re a great replacement for the more damaging options, from a bowl of M&Ms to chocolate-covered raisins.

Healthy Eating Habit #2: Get Popping

Speaking of healthy options, believe it or not, popcorn in its natural form is actually a wonderful food.

Most people forget that corn isn’t a vegetable, it’s a grain. And popcorn is a whole grain, with all the good fiber and nutrients included in that.

Much like with other whole grains, it’s still a carb, so you don’t want to overdo it. Luckily, popcorn is very filling—you can fill a bowl with a single serving of popcorn.

The important thing here is to make sure your popcorn is air-popped, preferably doing it yourself. And, of course, skip all the butter, salt, and seasonings that the massive food companies dress their popcorn up with to make it more enticing.

Air popped popcorn tastes better—it has that light, airy quality which oil takes away entirely. And it’s great for you.

It’s the additives, like you get with movie theater popcorn, that do the damage.

Healthy Eating Habit #3: Flake Out

I know many people who like cereal for a snack. And why not? Breakfast for dinner is always a great meal.

Only one problem: Cereal is almost always loaded down with lots of sugar, additives, and other unnecessary taste “enhancers.”

You don’t need any of that. Pick a good natural granola without added sugars. Getting its sweetness from whole fruit, granola is a much better option.

Just make sure you check the ingredient list. Many companies have keyed in on granola, and they’ve made some that are just like candy, with as much added sugar as you’d get from cereal.

A good, healthy granola will probably still have plenty of sugar—in the healthier fruit form. Look out for additives like high fructose corn syrup.

And if you want to play it even safer, muesli is still almost always an all-natural, healthy option. Or a nice bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, on those cold days.

Healthy Eating Habit #4: Keep The Chips!

Everyone loves chips. There’s no denying it.

But chips come in many different forms.

Most are made of potato, refined flour, or some other base that you don’t need. And then they’re coated in oil, fried, and given a huge amount of salt and sugar as well.

That’s where the problems come in.

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If you select a chip that’s made of whole ingredients—like unrefined corn meal, or even a vegetable—and then isn’t fried, but is baked instead, you’re most of the way home.

Make sure it doesn’t have additives for taste, and you’re good to go.

If you ever aren’t sure, you can also just buy some 100% corn tortillas, put a little salt on them, and then toast them in your toaster oven.

It’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s extremely tasty, without any of that artificial ingredient you get with most chips.

Add in some healthy salsa—and almost all salsa is healthy, as long as it’s made only from whole foods—and you’ve got a great snack for any occasion.

Healthy Eating Habit #5: Carrots And Hummus

Dips are great for parties, but most of them are made with a ton of fat, sugar, and salt.

You don’t need any of that to have a great dip.

Hummus is made from chick peas and tahini (a sesame seed paste similar in consistency to peanut butter)—one of the healthier foods out there. It’s a nutrient dense food, so you don’t want to overdo hummus, but as long as you stick to a tablespoon or two at a sitting, you’re fine.

And, rather than use empty chip calories as your delivery system, use carrots or cucumbers instead. They have the crunch that plays off the soft hummus very well and are full of the nutrients your body craves.

Remember, you want to have 8-10 servings of fruit and veggies everyday. If you can find extra slots for your veggies—like using carrots to eat your hummus—you’re ahead of the game.

Healthy Eating Habit #6: Ring Your Bell

Most people haven’t eaten them plain, but red bell peppers are delicious on their own.

They have a great crunch, they keep very well, and they’re surprisingly sweet.

And they’re as low in sugar as they are high in vitamins and nutrients.

You can also use red bell peppers as a dipper, for salsa or hummus. But I highly recommend you try red bell peppers on their own at some point. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well they hold up as a standalone snack.

Healthy Eating Habit #7: Keep It Dark

There’s nothing wrong with having a sweet tooth, and satisfying it now and again.

Just do it the right way.

That means eating dark chocolate instead of the milk stuff. Dark chocolate is actually very healthy, and quite good for you, as long as it doesn’t have too much added sugar.

You want dark chocolate made with at least 70% cacao—anything less has too many fillers, which aren’t great for you.

And you don’t want to eat a whole bar at once. Check the back of your package, and stick to a single serving—usually one-third or one-quarter of a bar.

Dark chocolate is so powerful, once you’ve gotten used to this intense dessert, you’ll probably find yourself satisfied with only half a serving.

Because it’s always important to remember, for all these snacks, the poison is in the portion. Vegetables aside, it’s easy to have too much of any of these foods, and undo your new healthy eating habits.

You don’t want to do that. Because, once you’ve replaced your bad habits with good ones, you’ll want to keep the positive progress happening. And eating the proper amount of these foods is a great way to do that.

References

Douglas-Gabriel, Danielle. Keep these healthy snacks at your desk to stave off midday hunger. The Washington Post. Published May 15, 2017. Accessed Jun 15, 2017.

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