Tuesday, June 8, 2010

snack attack

Everyone's busy; high school students with all their extracurriculars; college students juggling classes, jobs, and social lives; adults trying to provide financially for their families but still have plenty of family time. Even retired folks often fill their schedules with volunteering, traveling, and spending time with grandkids. As a symptom of our collective busyness, the most popular blog post request I've had so far is for quick and healthy snacks. So here's a list I put together of snacks for all different types of cravings and times of the day. Pick and choose which ones you think will make your life both healthier but easier.

1. Air-popped or Stove-top Popcorn: Takes just few minutes to prepare, fills you up with fiber and protein, and satisfies any salt tooth.
2. Dry-roasted, Salted Pumpkin Seeds: Lower calorie than most other seeds and nuts (only 70 calories per 1/4 cup) and full of filling protein as well as nutrients like calcium and iron.

1. Fresh fruit: Nature's dessert.
2. Frozen bananas or blueberries: Taste like frozen yogurt (minus all the added sugar)!
3. Hot Cocoa or Sweetened Tea: For relatively few calories, some homemade hot cocoa or honey-sweetened tea can satisfy your sugar craving. Here's a good hot cocoa recipe from Alton Brown of the Food Network.

1. A Banana: It has its own built-in packaging, so what could be an easier breakfast when you don't even have a minute for a bowl of cold cereal? If you can, though, grab a handful of almonds or walnuts as well for some protein.
2. Breakfast-in-a-bag: In a small zip-lock bag, pack about half a cup of your favorite cereal (high in fiber and protein, hopefully), a small handful of nuts, and another small handful of something sweet if you'd like, such as dried fruit (idea from Jennifer Saltiel on Kaboose.com). Stash in your purse/backpack/etc and you're out the door with energy to get you through your morning.
3. Whole Wheat Muffins: Make a dozen or two on the weekends, stick them in the freezer, and take them out and microwave when you needed. There are hundreds of versions of whole wheat muffins, but my favorite is pumpkin. Here's the best-tasting and healthiest recipe I've tried to date: Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins.

Car Keepers:
1. Trail Mix, of course: Almonds, walnuts, dried fruit, granola, cold cereal, peanuts, banana chips, raisins, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, cashews, pumpkin seeds, popcorn, pretzels; pick a few, fill up a medium-sized resealable bag, and permanently stash it in your car so you don't feel the need to raid a convenience store or drive-thru whenever hunger hits. If you don't have a car, keep a smaller-sized bag in your purse or backpack instead.
2. Cereal: Simple but works great. Find a high-protein, high-fiber cereal (I love Kashi) and either keep a bag or the whole box in your car 24/7.

Afternoon Energy Boosts:
1. Apple or Banana Slices spread with Peanut Butter: Get a serving a fruit in while filling up on its fiber and the protein from the peanut butter. Great snack to pick you up when you'd rather be taking an afternoon nap. If you're not a peanut butter fan, try pairing a cut-up apple with slices of your favorite cheese.
2. Carrots or Celery dipped in Guacamole or Hummus. Great for the same reasons as the above snack. Fiber + Protein + Unsaturated Fat = Get You Through Until Dinner.
3. Fair Trade Tea: Tea is a great energy boost for several reasons; first and most obvious is the caffeine. But because most teas have less caffeine than coffee they are also less likely to cause caffeine dependence (which is no fun, believe me). The second great thing about tea is (another obvious one) that it's hydrating. Being adequately hydrated is a huge part of staying energetic and alert. The third reason that tea is such a great "snack" is for it's long-term benefits; tea is full of antioxidants, which reduce the long-term effects of stress on your body. If you can't stomach tea plain, add a little milk, soymilk, lemon juice, or honey.

Evening Snacks: If you're anything like me, nighttime is the hardest  part of the day to suppress the desire to clean out the pail of ice cream sitting seductively in the freezer. Whether I'm either trying to avoid homework or cure boredom, the object of my desire is usually sugary or fat-filled. Thankfully I've developed a few coping methods.
1. Homemade Hot Cocoa or Decaf Tea: Here's the same hot cocoa recipe link posted above.
2. Popcorn: Great for the same reasons mentioned previously.
3. Chicken Soup or Broth: I find this a really soothing snack, especially on a cold winter night, and can even trick myself into thinking it's a full meal. :)
4. Homemade Baked Potato "Chips:" Found this snack idea at HubPages.com: Thinly slice a potato (white or sweet) with a potato peeler. Spray a cookie sheet with PAM, arrange the potato slices on the cookies sheet so they're not touching or overlapping. Spray them lightly with PAM, sprinkle with salt to taste and back them in a 370F oven for about ten to fifteen minutes - or until they are lightly brown and crispy.
5. Water: Wait, water isn't a snack! Exactly. If you've had a filling dinner, chances are your food itch is (as in my case) not hunger-based at all. So flavor some water with lemon and find another distraction (easier said then done, but it sounds nice, right?).

Photo Credits: Flickr Creative Commons Artists laffy4k, Rex Roof, floodkoff, kevinmarsh, and roland.

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