There was a recent discussion in our private FW Facebook group about healthy snacks and I couldn't help but notice there is quite a bit of confusion about what a healthy snack actually is. Let me just say that I get it because food companies are very clever in their marketing tactics. They spend thousands of dollars on market research. Like what colors are most attractive on packaging to trigger a consumer to buy and the FDA has given food companies a lot of leeway when it comes to the words they can use to describe "healthy" foods.
And did you know that sugar not only sweetens foods but it replaces more costly ingredients, like tomatoes for example, in ketchup to add bulk and texture? But of course the food companies aren't putting a big cube of sugar on the front of a bottle of ketchup. Instead the packaging displays a beautiful, bright red tomato bursting from a green vine so your brain sees something that looks healthy unless you read the ingredients and see how much added sugar is actually in it.
A protein bar sounds healthy especially when on the front of the package it has "15g of protein and made with real nuts" (which is kind of funny isn't it, what other kind of nuts would they use, fake ones?) but the real truth is found by turning it over and reading the ingredients and nutritional value. Brown Rice Syrup (sugar) as the first or second ingredient and 20g of added sugar tells you that it's really a candy bar with nuts and some added protein so they can make it sound healthy but it's far from being a good for your body snack.
So what is a snack that is actually good for you? Here are some questions you can ask yourself when choosing foods to snack on:
1. Is it real whole foods in their most natural state?
2. Is it a food that will fuel my body and give me energy?
3. Is it a food high in antioxidants and will help to boost my immune system?
4. Is it a food that is free from added sugars, artificial sugars, colors or flavorings?
So when you are choosing healthy snacks, you should be able to easily answer these questions by the type of food it is and reading the ingredients because ingredients never lie and why I am not a fan of things like protein shakes and packaged foods like power bars. There are very few out there that are actually healthy and the ones that are tend to be very expensive.
Here are some of my favorite healthy snacks that are budget friendly and you can easily make at home or pack in a cooler to take with you while you travel to avoid fast foods and convenience store snacks that are definitely not good for your body and will derail your goals and progress.
1. Hummus & Veggies
A tub of hummus and crisp fresh veggies are a great snack option. Hummus is a great protein source which will help you feel fuller longer and veggies are loaded with vitamins and minerals to give you energy.
2. Apples & Almond Butter
There are so many varieties of apples that it's easy to buy ones that are in season and on sale. Peanut butter works too, I just prefer almond butter but whatever nut butter you buy, make sure to read the ingredients! There should not be any added sugar in it.
Smoothies are a great and easy snack option and the possibilities are endless. You can add your favorite veggies, fruits, herbs and you can even add protein sources like almond butter, unsweetened yogurt and flax seeds which are high in omega-3.
4. Smoothie Bowl
A smoothie but thicker that's scooped into a bowl where you can top it with your favorite cut up fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, dates and coconut flakes. Again the possibilities are endless!
5. Avocado Toast
Literally the best snack EVER! Toast a piece of organic whole grain bread and top with mashed avocado and a fried egg. Add a dash of sea salt and ground pepper. So easy and so yummy! Here's a tip, if you keep your avocados in the fridge they will last longer.
6. Yogurt Bowl
Spoon some Greek unsweetened yogurt (any flavored yogurt like vanilla is going to be high in sugar so be sure you are opting for unsweetened yogurt!) into your favorite bowl. Top with some of your favorite fruits like crushed pineapple, blueberries, sliced cherries, bananas and top with your favorite nuts like slivered almonds or crushed pecans and coconut flakes. A healthy snack that is sweet enough that you will feel like you are having dessert!
7. Zucchini Fries
These are soooo easy to make and make a great snack!
3 Medium Zucchini
2 tbsp olive oil plus extra for greasing pan
1 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Slice 3 medium zucchinis in the size and shape of french fries. Put into a large bowl and toss with 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp black pepper and 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese. Gently toss. Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly grease large baking pan. Lay zucchini in a single layer. Cook for approx. 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serves 6
8. Almond Butter Filled Dates
Dates are a great source of calcium, magnesium and fiber. Look for fresh dates that are plump and have a slight glossy look to their skin. They can be wrinkled but shouldn’t be hard. I love using fresh Medjool dates as they are plump, sweet, tender and are perfect for stuffing. To stuff the date with almond or peanut butter, make a slit with a knife and remove the stones. Be careful when making the slit that you don’t cut the date in half; you just want to make a crevice to add the almond or peanut butter then dip or roll in coconut shavings.
9. Homemade Power Bars
Making your own power bars at home means you can control the ingredients and sugar. Here is one of my favorite recipes!
- 1 cups dates, pitted and chopped
- 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 2 cups cashew nuts (can use almonds or walnuts or even a mixture)
- 2/3 cup oats
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup of almond milk
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 5 tbsp peanut butter
Add in melted coconut oil and all the rest of the ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until mixture is well-mixed. Spoon mixture out into a medium-sized casserole dish, spread until even and then put it into the refrigerator and leave overnight. The next day, cut the spread into 1 inch squares and take with you when you’re on the go! A great pre-workout snack or something to take with you on a long bike ride or hike. Makes about 10-12 squares
10. Bowl Of Vegetable Soup
If you are struggling to get at least 3 servings of veggies in every day, this easy to make bowl of vegetable soup makes a great, healthy and filling snack!
4 cups vegetable broth
2 - 12 ounce bags frozen vegetables
1 tsp dried oregano
Makes 4 servings