Whether you call it discipline or a slight case of OCD, we happen to be planners. And, we have found this very helpful when it comes to eating healthfully. When we don’t plan, we tend to resort to the quick “grab-what-you-can meals and snacks,” which unfortunately aren’t usually healthy choices!
In our coaching tip, What Can a Nobel Prize Winner Teach Us About Eating Healthy?, we discussed the importance of making healthy eating the "easy" choice.
Snacks are a huge challenge - and a huge opportunity - for all of us.
They help us maintain our energy levels, stay focused and productive, prevent overeating at mealtime and satisfy our cravings. But…how many times do you find yourself wanting a snack and you are surrounded by nothing but bad choices? This may happen on the road (the closest convenience store or fast food restaurant starts calling your name), at work (the dreaded candy jar or vending machine), at the kids’ sporting events (the concession stand) or even in our own homes (grab a bag of chips or have a quick bowl of cereal).
While opening up a bag of M&Ms or grabbing a hot dog is super-easy, you can resist these temptations with just a little planning. And, the best part is your healthy snacks will taste better, and the fiber and protein will keep you feeling satisfied longer (without the post-candy bar regret!).
Several studies have shown that snacking on processed foods (especially sugar and refined carbs) doesn’t fill you up...it actually leads to more…and more…snacking. A much better plan is to ALWAYS be prepared with REAL food snack options!
So, if you are looking for some healthy snack ideas for yourself (or your kids), here are some ideas, including ideas for when you are on the go. Maybe you have tried some of these, and hopefully there will be a few new ones to add to your routine and your plan! (Print a list of the ideas below and keep on your frig for quick reference: REAL Food Snacks Eat REAL America PDF)
Super (REAL food) snack ideas!
- In-season fruits: Apples, pears, oranges and grapes are great options -- as Zonya always says, "fruit is nature's candy!" Apple slices with natural peanut butter (or other nut butter) is one of our "go-to" snacks. Zonya recently learned from her soon-to-be daughter-in-law that if you warm up the peanut butter just a bit, it makes a fantastic dip for apples!
- Ants on a log: celery, peanut butter and raisins.
- Nuts: a handful of your favorites.
- Jerky (beef, turkey or others)…the fewer ingredients, the better!
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Applesauce: with just a little effort, you can even make your own...check out our Super Cinnamon Applesauce -- it's delicious!
Just a little effort:
- Trail mix: mix your favorite nuts with dried fruit such as cranberries or raisins. Plus, you can satisfy your sweet tooth by adding some dark chocolate chips!
- Homemade granola: a great snack to add to fruit and yogurt, or eat it all by itself! Recipes to check out: Cranberry Coconut Granola, Pumpkin Spice Granola, and Banana Dark Chocolate Granola, to name a few.
- Take apple slices to the next level with the Apple Peanut Butter Quesadillas (the "warm peanut butter" thing makes these so scrumptious!)
- Fruit and cheese kabobs: everything is more fun eaten on a stick! Use strawberries, grapes, cheese cubes, or whatever you are craving.
- Charcuterie: some call it an "adult lunchable." The possibilities are endless and it is easily portable for those days when you are away from home.
- Add some pizzazz to nuts by roasting them and flavoring them up with a little honey, maple syrup, herbs and/or spices. Recipes to check out: Spiced Mixed Nuts and Birdseed Snack Mix. Make a big batch and enjoy as a snack or on salads throughout the week!
- Overnight oats: ideal grab and go breakfast...and can be a delicious snack too, especially if made ahead in mason jars. Recipes to check out: Carrot Cake Overnight Oats and Blueberry Overnight Oats.
- Yogurt and fruit: it can be as simple and combining plain non-fat yogurt (Greek yogurt is a great option) with your favorite fruit, and then add crunch with homemade granola. Some other ideas to check out: Oatmeal Cookie Parfait Cups, Creamy Fruit Salad, Dreamy Fruit 'n Nutty Salad, and the Banana Split Breakfast Parfaits.
- Salads: yes, salads can be an excellent snack! Pasta salads are especially good when you are away from home - check these out for inspiration: Mason Jar Chicken Pasta Salad, Spring Vegetable Orzo Pasta Salad or the Mediterranean Tuna & Roasted Red Pepper Pasta.
- Muffin Tin Madness: using muffin tins provides perfect snack-sized portions that are easily portable too! Some ideas to try include the Baked Oatmeal Cups, Zucchini Muffins or the Mini Frittatas!
Just dip it:
- Hummus with veggies: hummus is an ideal option…and serving great-tasting dips is a great way to get your kids to eat their veggies! Recipes to check out: Everyday Hummus, Roasted Carrot Hummus, Roasted Garlic White Bean Hummus, Garlic Dill Pickle Hummus and so many more! Instead of chips or crackers, enjoy it with sliced veggies like cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, radishes or kohlrabi!
- Salsa or guacamole: easy to make and enjoy all week long! Recipes to check out: Simple Salsa Fresca, Easy Pineapple Salsa, Simple Guacamole, or Hatch Chile Guacamole.
- Bruschetta: when tomatoes are in-season, you can make a big batch of the Tomato & Basil Bruschetta and eat it as a snack with some toasted whole grain bread or toasted whole wheat pitas.
Cool and refreshing:
- Smoothies: as simple as adding frozen strawberries, a banana, and milk to a blender. Mix it up with your favorite fruits -- delicious as a quick breakfast too! Recipes to check out: Super Pink Smoothie and Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie.
- Popsicles: transform those smoothies into popsicles. Or simply blend plain yogurt with your favorite fruit (add a little honey if desired), and freeze. If you don't have popsicle molds, you can even make mini popsicles in an ice cube tray or using small paper Dixie cups and a popsicle stick. Check out our Summer on a Stick! coaching tip for more ideas and inspiration!
- Ice cream: super-easy to make with flavor combinations like Chocolate Banana, Pina Colada and Mixed Berry.
Satisfy a sweet craving:
- Dark chocolate (just one or two squares will satisfy a chocolate craving)!
- Bite-sized bliss: these make super convenient grab-and-go breakfasts, snacks or even desserts. Recipes to check out: Chocolate Chia Energy Bites, Peanut Butter Cup Power Balls and Almond Butter Bites - they are all crazy good! And the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are a healthy alternative to that candy bar combo of chocolate and peanut butter many of us love!
- Homemade Pudding: REAL ingredients make them healthier! Make ahead for your week and store in small mason jars. Recipes to check out: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding, Bananas Foster Pudding Cups and Mango Chia Seed Pudding.
- Breakfast Cookies: not just for breakfast, these also make an incredibly good snack or after-dinner sweet treat! Recipe to check out: Chunky Monkey Breakfast Cookies, Chocolate Bliss Breakfast Cookies and Blueberry Lemon Breakfast Cookies.
Satisfy a salty craving:
- Air-popped popcorn: fantastic alternative to microwave popcorn – just add a little olive oil and sea salt. Popcorn is an excellent snack for road trips -- you can also jazz it up by making pizza flavored popcorn, a kettle corn version with honey and vanilla, or drizzling melted dark chocolate.
- Roasted chickpeas: depending on how long you roast them, you can make them super-crispy, or lightly browned and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. A delicious snack!
- Edamame: you can find these packaged (frozen), ready to steam in the microwave, and then they are ready to enjoy!
- Sweet potato crisps: thinly slice sweet potatoes, add some olive oil, salt and pepper and bake until crisp. Parsnip fries are also a great idea, made the same way! Recipes to check out: Salt and Vinegar Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnip Fries.
- Roasted cauliflower (or other roasted veggies): you won’t believe how easy and good this can be! Cut into bite size pieces, add a little olive oil, salt and pepper (and other favorite seasonings!) and roast for 20-25 minutes. Recipe to check out: Curry Roasted Cauliflower & Carrots or Broccoli Poppers.
As you can see, there is no excuse for being stuck without good snack options! For even more ideas, go to the Snack Ideas on the Eat REAL America website. We hope this makes it a little easier to make smart REAL food choices when you need a snack, whether at home or on the go.
Do you have great-tasting REAL food snack ideas that make your life easier?
Please let us know so we can share with other Eat REAL America members!