For this week’s post I want to talk briefly about nutrition and more specifically “healthy snacks."
A question that I am often asked by people looking to improve their body composition as well as their energy levels is “what type of healthy snacks can I eat if I want to look and feel better." Before we get started I want to stress that I am not a nutritionist. The nutritional tips that I provide are based off of my own experience as well as books that I have read. If you want to talk to an expert in the field I would recommend that you head over to precisionnutrition.com and speak with John Berardi and his staff.
Most people love to snack. Whether it’s reaching for a bag of chips at a game or heading to the vending machine while at work. The key when it comes to choosing “healthy snacks” is to try and eat unprocessed food whenever possible. One thing that you have to remember is that most food companies include ingredients into their snacks that don’t fill you up but rather keep you coming back for more. Instead of truly satisfying your hunger they may cause a quick spike in your blood sugar that may provide short term relief but after about an hour you are reaching for your third bag of chips.
When it comes to choosing “healthier” snacks I think it is important to take the following things into consideration.
- Eat snacks that have a balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. If you eat snacks that only have carbohydrates you will be in search for more food in about an hour when your blood sugar drops again.
- Plan ahead. By this I mean look at your day and if you are going to be on the run all day in between meetings and your car have snacks that can be eaten quickly and that provide quality nutrition. A great choice here is a homemade trail mix.
- Stay away from the vending machine. These foods are filled with sugar and additives that your body simply does not need. If you want something sweet than make some homemade chocolate covered cashews, almonds or macadamia nuts.
- Avoid fat free products. We have been told by so many people in the media that we should eat low fat or fat free products. Next time you reach for a fat free granola bar take a close look at the ingredients and I guarantee the product is filled with sugar, food additives as well as a host of ingredients that are not good for you. Remember this, fat is not the problem eating a whole bag of chips or sitting at your desk for 8 hours without moving is the problem. Add some good fat (i.e. olive oil, coconut oil, raw butter, nuts) to your daily nutrition plan.
- Eat foods that will eventually go bad. The candy bar in the vending machine although it tastes good could probably stay in there for over a year. Instead eat foods that after a period of time will spoil. This is a sign that you are eating real food and not something that was made in a lab.
Here are five snack options for you to add to your nutrition. The snacks made below are simple to make provide a good balance of vitamins and minerals.
1. Homemade trail mix: Instead of spending money on a bag of premade trail mix try this simple combination instead. Mix all of the combinations below in a zip lock bag and carry it with you to work (or leave it in your car if you drive a lot).
- ¼ cup of raisins
- ¼ cup of macadamia nuts
- ¼ cup of raw almonds
- ¼ cup of tart cherries
2. Greek yogurt (Try and eat vanilla if possible. The “fruit” flavors have added sugar that you may want to avoid if you are concerned about weight gain or are a diabetic)
Add 1-2 servings of vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries or blueberries. If you want to add a crunch to the mix add in some organic granola.
3. Power smoothie
- ¼ cup of orange juice (optional)
- ¼ cup of water (Use more if you skip the orange juice)
- 1 banana
- 1 tsp. of melted coconut oil
- 5-6 strawberries
- 1 handful of frozen mango
- 1 scoop of a high quality whey protein (I prefer Whey Natural USA which is grass fed)
- 1 handful of kale (optional)
- Handful of goji berries (soak these for 15 minutes in water before placing them in the blender)
- 1 tsp. of spirulina (Optional. Spirulina will turn the smoothie green. It is a rich plant protein that offers a host of health benefits (i.e. B-vitamins, iron,magnesium,etc.). This may not be for everyone but if you are looking to add vitamins to a snack mix in a small amount to your smoothie and give it a shot.
- Blend for 45-60 seconds to make sure everything is chopped up.
4. Dark chocolate covered raw cashews w/ sea salt and cacao.
- In a pot mix in ½ cup of dark chocolate as well as a small handful of organic cacao.
- Melt the chocolate very slowly and add in the raw cashews (1/2 cup).
- Cover the cashews with chocolate and place them on a plate and put them in the fridge for 1 hour to allow the chocolate to harden.
- Sprinkle sea salt on the chocolate and place it in the fridge.
Note, when doctors tell you that chocolate is good for you they are not talking about candy bars they are talking about cacao. It is considered a super food and is very high in antioxidants.
5. Frozen banana with milk (I prefer raw milk but if you do not like the taste use regular milk)
- Peel a banana and place it in a freezer bag for 4-5 hours or until it is frozen.
- Take 1 cup of milk and pour it in the blender.
- Next add the banana and some cinnamon or dark chocolate (optional) to the mix.
- Blend on high until it is thick and creamy (FYI, don’t add to much milk you want it to be think like a milk shake).
- If you are someone who needs to eat a bowl of ice cream each night try this a few nights a week instead of the ice cream.
Here is a Bonus snack for you. Homemade avocado dip
- 2 ripe avocados
- ½ lemon squeezed
- ¼ cup of a red onion chopped
- ½ ripe tomato chopped
- Handful of cilantro leaves chopped
- Sea salt to taste
Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and place this in the fridge for 30 minutes. Add the sea salt to taste. Chop everything up (Make sure the avocado is ripe) and eat with some chips or fresh veggies or add this to a chicken sandwich.
When it comes to snacking it’s really important that you enjoy what you eat. By no means am I telling you to stop eating some of your favorite snacks. I think pretzels and ice cream and candy bars are delicious. However, if you put a little effort into preparing some “healthier” alternatives you can still enjoy the taste of the food and reduce the amount of processed foods that you consume. Remember, food should be something that we enjoy and eat because we are hungry if you are an emotional eater you need to find ways to reduce the temptation to snack all day long on empty calories.
As always if you have questions or comments please send them my way and I will do my best to answer them.
Thank you and have a great day!
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.