I got a press release the other day informing me that February is National Snack Food month, a distinction created by the Snack Food Association back in 1989 to build awareness during an otherwise slow sales month. As I sit here eating Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Hearts (yum!), I realize I am not one of the people who needs this kind of reminder. But it also reminds me of how many, as my daughter says, “junky” snack options are out there.
If you look in my snack cupboard I have all of the usual suspects: cookies, crackers, chips. But they are what I would call less “junky” alternatives. Because snacks are important. I absolutely subscribe to the notion of eating lots of small meals throughout the day. Grazing is a way to keep from getting hungry and devouring the contents of your refrigerator, but it only works if the calories you take in don’t exceed the calories your body needs to maintain your weight, of course. And unfortunately, many of the snack packs out there aren’t a single serving but two or even three servings. So how can you snack appropriately as well as greenly? Here are some tips:
Pick Fruits and Veggies First: Stupid idea, right? Everyone says this, and it never works, right? But it does work if you buy ahead, chop, and put into sealed containers. I use Tupperware’s FridgeSmart containers, which have little tabs you can push in or out — depending on the type of produce — to keep it fresh longer. FridgeSmart stuff is BPA-free, and actually works. Don’t want to buy new? There 446 listings on eBay right now, and you can also post a wanted ad on Freecycle.org to get one. I like to dip in balsamic vinaigrette dressing or, if I am feeling really peckish, a little sour cream dip.
Go For Bulk. Fiber fills you up. If you’re snacking, choose items that have more fiber. A bowl of cereal can be great. I like Kashi GoLean Crunch, which has eight grams of fiber. Kashi also has some really fun, really yummy recipes if you want sweet, but want to keep calorie counts down. Popcorn is also great; so is instant oatmeal. I make the most yummy high fiber chocolate snacks with a Weight Watchers recipe a good friend gave me. Take one sleeve of Fiber One cereal (no, I don’t love that it has a little aspartame) and mix it into a package of melted chocolate chips. Make tablespoon-sized cookies by scooping and dropping them onto parchment paper. Each cookie is one “point.”
Don’t Deny Yourself. If chocolate calls your name, answer the call. Just make sure the chocolate you’re eating is the healthy kind. No high fructose, lots of cacao (the darker, the better), and remember portion sizes. I like grabbing a small handful of Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate morsels with three or four pretzels. Sweet and salty equals satisfying. I’m a big cookie person, too. Again, I make sure I buy cookies that have no high fructose or hydrogenated oils, and I limit my intake. Sometimes, I will even keep the boxes in my car. If I want a cookie that bad that I am willing to get up off my butt and go out to the car I deserve it!
Avoid Single Serving Bags. It might seem smart to buy the single serving options, but from a green perspective it’s not a good idea. You can make your own single servings, though, with reusable containers or snack bags. (I like ReSnackIt bags, but there are a ton of others out there, too.) Reusablebags.com has 21 different snack bag options.
Don’t Underestimate “Difficult.” Some snacks go down so easily you can inhale 300 calories in less than a minute. There are plenty of snacks, however, that you have to work to eat, thereby giving your body and mind a chance to enjoy them. My favorite these days: Red Mango frozen yogurt. But here’s the thing: I don’t eat it when it’s soft. I take it home and freeze it. When it’s really firm I can sit down and eat it for a while and really enjoy it. Plus, it’s got probiotics and calcium. I’m allergic to nuts, but unshelled nuts are another “difficult” snack food. You have to open them, which slows your snacking. A few more options: unpitted olives, unshelled edamame, and unshelled pumpkin seeds.
What’s your favorite healthy snack? How do you deal with snack attacks? What’s your biggest downfall? (Mine is cheese — love it, but can’t stop at a one-inch cube!) I’d love to hear about it.