By Elisa Bosley
Senior Food Editor, Delicious Living magazine
Why reevaluate your noshing habits? According to USDA research, snacking has increased fourfold in the past 25 years and now contributes 26 percent of total calories consumed by kidsâ€”with sugar stealing the show over vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The result: higher rates of childhood obesity, which can up the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and some cancers. The good news is it’s not hard to pack snack time with healthful ingredients (that taste great, too!).
Start by cutting out sugary drinks (linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes) and trans fats; then try these 20 deliciously deceptive nutritious recipes and simple tips for improving snack time.
Think of snacks as mini-meals. To avoid excess calories and blood-sugar spikes, skip the quick-hit convenience snacks and choose a mix of minimally process, healthy proteins, fats, and carbs for lasting energy and nutrients. Protein boosts metabolism three times more than carbs or fats, so try a hard-boiled, omega-3-enriched egg; flavored turkey strips; vanilla protein powder mixed into yogurt; all-natural jerky.
Dip veggies, instead of chips. Pair sugar snap peas, mini carrots, and sliced cucumber, red bell peppers, or zucchini â€”with hummus or a yogurt-based dip. And try intensifying veggies’ natural sweetness by blanching. Submerge broccoli or cauliflower florets, asparagus, green beans, red pepper strips, or carrots (one at a time) in lightly salted, boiling water for one to three minutes; when brightly colored, drain and quickly plunge into ice water. When cold, drain again and pat dry.
Branch out. Instead of filling the pantry with junk food, keep bowls of grapes, cherries, or plums out on the counter, and be sure your kids catch you eating them. Stock a couple of yummy dips, such as plain Greek yogurt mixed with crushed garlic and paprika or an unusual nut butter mixed with a little honey. Having healthy foods at the ready is the number one key to smarter snacking. And because children imitate what they see, it’s important that all adults in the household set a good example by eating whole, nutrient-rich snacks throughout the day.
Offer food in a relaxed environment, away from the TV. You know that whole bag of chips or candy bar you consumed while watching your favorite sitcom? Research shows that increased TV time directly correlates to increased intake of sugary drinks and empty-calorie snacks, as well as lower vegetable intake.
Read those labels. Get label savvy by familiarizing yourself with daily values, ingredient terms, and labels. Some to look for: Whole Grain, and â€˜low-sodium.â€™ Avoid: trans fats, artificial colors and flavors, high-fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. And don’t fall prey to the common misconception that â€˜naturalâ€™ means healthy.
12 easy and nutritious snack ideas
1. Guacamole or hummus with jicama sticks, snap peas, and red pepper slices
2. Whole-grain pretzels with almond butter
3. Cinnamon graham crackers with cottage cheese
4. Organic dried veggies and fruits, such as those from Just Tomatoes
5. Trail mix made with dried berries, nuts, and whole-grain granola or breakfast O’s
6. Apples and cheddar cheese cubes
7. Smoothies with yogurt, milk, frozen berries, and banana
8. String cheese with nut crackers
9. Greek yogurt mixed with honey and melon
10. Salsa with baked blue-corn chips
11. Toasted, seasoned pumpkin seeds
12. Water or sparkling water with an ice cube made with cranberry, blueberry, or pomegranate juice
Check out The Food Channel’s Top Ten Snack Trends for 2010.
Also, see our video of the Top Ten Snack Trends.
Elisa Bosley has been the senior food editor for Delicious Living since 2001 and still learns something new every time she tests the magazine’s recipes. She loves teaching others that healthy food can and should taste fabulous. Frequently found hiking the trails near her home in Boulder, Colorado, Elisa’s favorite snack is a fresh mango.