If You Like These 10 Unhealthy Snacks, You'll Love Our 10 Healthy Swaps
I love snacks. Like, really love snacks. You know that viral Oprah Winfrey meme? The one where she goes on about how much she "loves bread"? Just swap out "bread" for "snacks" and that's how I feel. My caveat is I probably like snacking too much. Chocolate, cupcakes, chips, pretzels, pie — you name it, I've snacked on it at all times of the day. Craving something sweet after lunch? I already have a bunch of frozen peanut butter cups on hand. Feeling a little hungry at midnight? Up to make pasta I get. Even as I write this, I am funneling down a bag of Trader Joe's pita chips (it's after 10 p.m., FYI).
This is, of course, not the best way to eat while trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
But I am not alone in this. According to a 2015 study, almost all Americans, precisely 94 percent, have a snack at least once a day, while 50 percent of the American adult population snack two to three times per day. Furthermore, 70 percent admit that nowadays anything can be considered a snack (raises hand — yup, that's me!)
"Snacking is another opportunity to fuel your body with important nutrients, not just empty calories."
This habit of snacking is not anything new — it also goes back centuries. "Ever find it hard to stop eating your favorite sweet snack?" asks Jessica Rosen, cofounder of Raw Generation and certified holistic health coach. "That is because going back to the beginning of the human species, our bodies have been hard-wired to want sugary foods when they are available during Spring and Summer months so it can turn the excess sugar into stored fat for energy in Winter months when food is scarce. The problem we now face is that we no longer have a shortage of calories — in fact, we have the opposite . . . as many calories and high-sugar foods as we could ever want, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year".
After a bad sugar crash left me feeling pretty sick and my doctor has warned me to watch my health, I knew that I had to make some adjustments to my eating habits and not act like I was going to go into hibernation mode each day. But turns out snacks aren't entirely bad for you — if you do it right, that is.
"Snacks are the best part of the day, in my opinion," shares Spoon Guru's USA nutritionist Catherine Ward. "I look at snacking as an opportunity for self-care; it's a chance to take a short mental break from your work, have a moment to yourself, and refuel your body. Healthy snack alternatives are important because you want foods that will make you feel good for the rest of your day without weighing you down or leading to a sugar crash before your next meal. Healthy snacks that have a good blend of carbohydrates from fiber, healthy fat, and protein are digested more slowly and keep you feeling full and your energy up until your next meal."
In addition to providing you with more sustenance and fueling you between meals, healthy snacks give you the opportunity to further nourish your body. "Snacking is another opportunity to fuel your body with important nutrients, not just empty calories," adds Kate Schlag, MPH, RD, nutritionist at Munchery. "In addition to satiating hunger, a healthy snack can help you with your health goals: if you're an athlete, choose a snack with protein to help your muscles recover from last night's workout; if you're aiming to drop a few pounds, choose fiber- and water-rich vegetables, which are filling, paired with healthy fats or protein for staying power; if you're trying to improve your cardiovascular health, choose heart-healthy fats like nuts or avocado on whole grain bread".
Of course fruits, vegetables, and proteins, whether in the form of meat or nuts, are always ideal snacks to have on hand in between meals. But sometimes you just want a little bit something more. Here are some healthier alternatives to traditional snacks for those times.