When I hear people saying (and truly thinking) their kids “need” crackers and “need” juice and “need” cows’ milk, I have to bite my tongue. What we need is more fruits and vegetables. Yet through marketing and conditioning we’ve come to believe that when you’re hungry, you grab a snickers. Our food should not come from vending machines or drive-thrus. So what is a smart snack?
Welcome to another Wellness Wednesdays feature. This series is inspired by my 12-week wellness class at work. Although I am a Health Psychologist, even I needed a refresher (and motivator) on healthy lifestyle changes.
Week 1 we learned about nutrition basics. Week 2 was about increasing physical activity throughout the day. Week 3 was about processed foods and reading nutrition labels (even I learned something new, including the 5 and 20 rule). Week 4 is about healthy snacking.
Snacking in the USA
Growing up in the USA, the afterschool “snacks” I was served by my daycare providers were far from healthy. As an adult, I have sadly passed on some of those same habits to my own kids.
In North America, many of our snacks are high in refined grains, sugar, and/or salt. None of this helps us sustain or maximize our nutrition. Common snacks often consist of:
Refined carbs (e.g., chips, crackers, pretzels).
Sweets (e.g., candy bars, granola bars with chocolate chips).
Drinks (e.g., coffee with syrups and sugars, juices, alcohol).
It takes approximately 3 hours to digest a meal and feel hungry again. Since our meals are usually longer than 3 hours apart, it makes sense that we need a snack in between.
Healthy snacks should add to our daily nutritional needs (e.g., vitamins, fiber). But it’s not only what we eat, but how much we eat.
A reasonable snack should be around 100 calories. Let’s say you are on a 1,600 calorie a day diet.* Three 500 calorie meals leaves room for just one 100 calorie snack.
Depending on the size and how it’s made, 1 margarita can have 600-900 calories!
Just 100 extra calories a day = 10 pounds of weight gain in 1 year! And we wonder why we as a nation are becoming obese. This is one of the reasons.
Examples of 100 calorie snacks:
- 2 mini Baby Bell cheese (50 calories each)
- 1 apple with 1/2 Tbsp of reduced fat peanut butter
- 15 almonds
- 23 baby carrots and 2 Tbsp hummus
*1600 calories is what my dietician recommends for women with moderate levels of activity, but check with your physician or dietician for your needs.
Challenge for the Week
This week’s challenge was to pay attention to my snacking choices and choose “smart snacks.”
Smart snacks included choosing whole foods over processed foods (e.g., apples over apple sauce or apple juice), aiming for around 100 calories, maximizing nutrition, and avoiding added sugars.
Choosing Healthy Snacks
If a reasonable snack is 100 calories, how do we do that?
|Strawberries (1 cup)||49||$1.49|
|Popcorn (3 Tbsp, air popped)||120||$0.16|
|Roasted peanuts (1oz)||160||$0.17|
|Almonds (1 oz)||170||$0.43|
|Carrot & 2 Tbsp hummus||120||$0.41|
|Raisins (1/4 cup)||130||$0.37|
|1 Baby bell mozzarella cheese||50||$0.21|
|1 Hard boiled egg||77||$0.23|
As you can see from the above list, even healthy options can contain quite a bit of calories. So it’s important to measure servings and eat in moderation.
All these snacks cost much less than what one would spend at a vending machine, drive-thru, or convenience store. Strawberries were the most expensive, but we only eat 2-3 at a time not an entire cup, which greatly reduces our price per snack.
My Progress this Week
My challenge was to determine 5 smart snacks. I bought 10 (listed above).
Here are some of the replacements I made to maximize nutrition and eat minimally processed foods:
|Replaced processed food||With minimally processed food|
|Trail mix (w/ candies)||Almonds|
|Peanut butter (w/ added sugar)||Peanuts|
|Crackers (w/ refined grains)||Whole Grain Popcorn|
|Yogurt (w/ added sugar)||Cheese|
Regarding physical activity, I continued jogging using the couch to 5K plan, walking and taking stairs with a friend during lunch, and using resistance bands while watching television.
Although I didn’t lose any weight this week, I also didn’t gain any. My clothes are fitting better, stomach is flatter, and muscles are bigger!
For our next Wellness Wednesday feature, we tackle one of my biggest challenges: eating healthy at restaurants (and saving money in the process).
What smart snacks do you enjoy?