Everyone loves snacks! However, when we’re hungry and reaching for something quick to eat, it’s very easy to grab what’s convenient—and not always the most healthy. Eating snacks between meals helps to maintain blood sugar, gives us extra servings of fruits, veggies and nutrients, and can give us a boost of energy.
To keep your snack game strong, we suggest a balanced eating approach. This means that while we don’t suggest depriving yourself of your favorite treats, we do suggest that you indulge in moderation by focusing on whole, minimally processed foods, and avoiding or limiting heavily processed foods. Let’s take at our favorite heart healthy snacks.
Okay, you probably won’t grab a handful of greens to snack on but these powerhouse vegetables serve up a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and C. We suggest adding one to two handfuls of kale or spinach to your favorite smoothie recipe. For a nutritious (and quick) snack, blend up our “Greenest Smoothie.”
Raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are the ultimate sweet treat. Berries feel indulgent because of their natural sugars but are actually packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We suggest starting with a serving size of one cup of frozen or fresh picked berries. Enjoy them as they are or add them to a smoothie or on top of a serving of plain yogurt or cottage cheese.
To avoid sugar spikes when snacking, add a serving of healthy fat and/or protein. Think banana with peanut butter or apple slices with cheese.
This green, nutrient dense fruit is incredibly versatile. Packed with healthy fats to keep you feeling full and with a mild flavor, it can truly take on any form you’d like. Add 1/2 of a ripe avocado into a smoothie. Scoop out the flesh, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a dash of hot sauce and smear it on your toast. Or use it as a veggie dip with cucumbers, carrots, or sliced bell peppers (much like guacamole).
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are small, but pack a mighty punch with a satisfying crunch. Grab a handful of sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, or macadamia nuts. Add chia seeds, flax seeds or hemp seeds to your smoothies or homemade dips. Be cautious of serving sizes as nuts and seeds contain a lot of (healthy) fat.
Hummus is typically made from chickpeas but can also be made from white beans, black beans or even mashed cauliflower! Hummus can be store bought or made at home where you can control its ingredients. When made with chickpeas or beans, a serving of hummus offers a generous amount of protein and pairs perfectly with veggie sticks or multi-grain crackers.
While we suggest limiting packaged and processed foods, it’s important to note that not all packaged or prepared foods are bad and should be avoided For instance, washed and packaged leafy greens, pre-cut and washed vegetables, fortified juices, and nut butters are completely acceptable to purchase and enjoy. For best practice while grocery shopping, read all nutrition labels.
On the other hand, we do suggest limiting or completely avoiding heavily processed packaged foods that appear in the store as “ready to eat.” Typically, these food items contain a high amount of processed sugars (e.g. corn syrup), sodium (e.g. salt), trans fats, preservatives and other harmful ingredients. Consider limiting:
- Chips, popcorn, most crackers
- Cookies, candy and candy bars
- Soda, energy drinks or other sugary drinks
- Dried fruit and fruit cocktails
- Flavored yogurts
When wanting to choose healthier snacks, try having healthier choices at home that are convenient and ready to eat and therefore easy to choose. Try the following:
- Rinse and portion leafy greens so that they’re ready to be blended into your smoothie.
- Wash, cut, and store carrot sticks, cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables for dipping in the fridge.
- Pre-portion nuts and seeds and nut butters so you can grab the correct serving size without accidentally overdoing it.
Remember that snacking is a great way to maintain your blood sugar and keep you satisfied until your next meal, but it’s not meant to make you feel too full or will have a sugar crash!
If you need help determining which snacks are best for your lifestyle, consult with your primary care provider or with a certified nutritionist.