Eating a snack is a great way to bring in additional nutrient intake, particularly when snacking is centered around colorful, whole foods. Another benefit of having a snack relates to appetite regulation; eating some calories between meals helps you stay satiated and decreases the odds of over-eating at the next meal. A nutritious snack also helps increase our focus and maintain steady energy levels, making it a good option for both children and adults.
As with other meals, it is important to eat a balanced snack that includes protein, fat, and fiber as this combination helps keep you full for a longer period of time and it minimizes blood sugar spikes.
Grocery stores have dozens of food items labeled as snacks. However, a lot of them are ultra-processed foods that tend to be high in refined flours, starches, low quality vegetable oils, sugar, salt, and additives. I am referring to the variety of crackers, chips, cookies, and candy crowding some of the grocery store isles.
When looking for snacks at the grocery store the healthier options are always minimally processed whole foods that have no additives. These are the foods that will help you nourish your body and increase your energy levels without causing a sugar rollercoaster that will leave you sluggish and asking for more food an hour later.
If you are searching the grocery store for a quick grab and go snack, these are some healthy ideas:
- Fresh organic fruit such as apples, tangerines, pears, bananas, and blueberries.
- Fresh organic vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, radishes, or celery.
- Unsweetened yogurt (dairy or alternative). Look for yogurt with live cultures and no added sugars.
- Nuts and seeds. Unsalted raw or dry roasted are great options.
- Hummus. Look for brands that use extra virgin olive oil or no oil at all (instead of canola, soybean oil, or other processed vegetable oils).
- Organic string cheese (if tolerated).
- Some granola bars. It is very important to read the ingredients and understand where the sugar is coming from (a whole food or a refined sugar?) and what types of fats are included (are there partially hydrogenated oils?). Look for a product that has 3 or more grams of fiber and is made with simple, whole ingredients.
If you are preparing a snack at home, here are examples of balanced, nutrient dense snacks you can put together in 5 minutes:
- Whole grain (or gluten free) toast with tahini, raspberries, and 1 tsp of honey.
- Canned tuna/salmon mashed with Dijon mustard, salt, fresh black pepper, and avocado. Served with sliced cucumbers, carrot sticks, and whole grain/seed crackers.
- Smoked salmon on avocado toast.
- Veggie nori rolls with bell peppers, cucumbers, hummus and avocado.
- Green smoothie that follows the PFF formula (protein, fat, fiber).
- Whole grain (or gluten free) toast with almond butter and hemp hearts.
- Popcorn, walnuts, and blackberries.
- Guacamole with carrot sticks, sliced cucumbers, and bell pepper sticks.
- Any berry with a handful of your favorite nuts.
- Apple slices with almond butter, cinnamon, and hemp hearts.
- Whole grain (or gluten free) toast with hummus and avocado slices. Topped with pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
- Unsweetened yogurt (dairy or alternative) with berries and hemp/pumpkin seeds.
- Carrot sticks with almond butter.
- Energy balls (see recipe example below).
Please remember individual needs may vary. For some, eating a nutritious snack between meals may be necessary for blood sugar regulation or to keep energy levels up. For others, three balanced meals a day may be sufficient. Also, some days will be different from others. Practice listening to your hunger cues and honoring your needs.
NUTRIENT DENSE SNACK IDEAS
Give it a go! Try some of these delicious snacks this week.
- Cinnamon ginger energy balls
- Black bean dip
- Tuna nori wraps
- Hummus and veggies snack box
- Avocado, cucumber and nori snack box
NUTRITION FUN FOR THE KIDDOS
Let’s have some fun in the kitchen this week!
- Make fruit and veggie kabobs with your child: make a colorful kabob with strawberries, kiwi, melon, and apples. Sprinkle them with cinnamon and hemp hearts. Or make a veggie kabob with carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers. Eat with a hummus dip.
- Use celery, almond butter, and raisins to make ants on a log.
- Make a turkey roll-up. Spread hummus onto deli turkey. Add some slices of avocado, a bell pepper, some spinach and roll it up.