How many of you do a pretty good job of eating smart at your main meals, but find things start to fall apart when hunger hits mid-afternoon or after dinner? Snacks can be a great way to up your nutrition and fill in the gaps from your main meals. However, the snack foods we reach for are not always the greatest options for our health and weight.
Recently fresh fruit has topped the list of most popular snacks in America. That’s a great change for our nation’s health. Can you guess what the 2nd and 3rd most popular snacks are? Chocolate and potato chips. So there is still more room for improvement! Try these ideas for smart snacks that are perfect on the go, at the office or after school.
- Fruit– No surprise here, fruit is nature’s fast food. Apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, etc. are all quick to grab and go. Every mom should keep a piece of fruit in her purse to fend off the hunger tantrum every kid has now and then.
- Vegetables– A little less portable than fruit, vegetables are still great snacks. If you wash, peel, and cut them ahead of time, it’s very easy for kids to fix a snack themselves when they come home hungry after school or day care. For pickier eaters, a tasty dip will make veggies more fun to eat. Try these recipes for Hummus, Creamy Dill Dip, and Low-fat Ranch Dip.
- Nuts– Nuts are also portable and filling snacks. Try to buy low/no salt nuts to keep your heart healthy. Nut butter also pairs well with fruit or veggies. Who doesn’t love bananas and apples with peanut butter? Bugs on a Log are a classic pairing of peanut butter, celery and raisins, with a twist of kid-appeal in their fun name. (If peanut or tree nut allergies are an issue for your family, you can find sunflower seed or soynut butters to use instead.)
- String Cheese– A timeless and healthy option kids love to eat. Make sure you’re buying reduced fat (part skim) varieties.
- Air popped popcorn– A staple in my snack arsenal, popcorn is a whole grain. When you buy the plain kernels instead of the microwave bags, it’s extremely cheap, too. If you don’t have an air popper, you can cook it in the microwave (Pour kernels into a microwave-safe bowl, top with a microwave-safe lid or plate and heat for about 5 minutes or until the popping slows down) or on the stovetop (Drizzle a little oil in the bottom of a pot, add popcorn kernels, cover and heat. Once it starts popping, shake the pot to keep it from burning on the bottom until the popping slows down). A spritz of non-stick cooking spray and your favorite seasonings will make the best bowl of popcorn you’ve ever had in less than 5 minutes.
- Whole Grain Crackers– There is a wide variety of whole grain cracker options these days. Crackers are a blank canvas that you can top with different [healthy] ingredients to suit your cravings. Cheese crackers, peanut butter crackers, cream cheese and cucumber crackers. The possibilities are endless.
You can find more snack recipes from the Family Nutrition Program here.
What are some of your family’s favorite snacks? How can you tweak them to snack smarter?