Busy schedules drive a need for quick and healthy snacks. With autumn here and school back in session, we’ve compiled a list of seven suggestions to improve your snack—and nutritional—profile.
It is never too late to introduce or reinforce the idea of healthy snacks to children or adults. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, children ages two through 18 consume 40 percent of their calories each day from nutritionally empty sources like soda pop, pizza, fruit drinks, grain and dairy desserts.
Intended to help people avoid energy lag between meals, many snacks offer a lot in the way of sugar and calories, but little in the way of real nutrition. Processed snacks are often heavy on fats and refined sugar.
Healthy snacks—made your way
A thoughtfully prepared homemade snack can be a healthy treat. For those who are pressed for time and need a healthy snack for themselves or their family, consider these ideas:
- The raw deal: Any list of homemade healthy snacks includes pre-peeled and cut vegetables. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and others are great waiting in the refrigerator for a family member on the go. Apples, raisins, and grapes are fast and tasty snacks.
- Nuts! Technically speaking, nuts are the seeds of fruits and full of complex nutritional compounds that support good health. Buy unshelled or shelled raw unroasted nuts in advance; and give yourself or your family a handful of health once or twice a day. Offering a boost of protein, aim for a half ounce of raw hulled pumpkin, sunflower, squash seeds or nuts (12 almonds, seven walnut halves, or 24 pistachios).
- Granola bars: Once considered a health food, packaged and processed granola and granola bars sometimes bear little resemblance to a healthy snack. Bake or no-bake, there are many recipes for make-ahead granola or granola bars that cater to the food and fruit choices of your friends and family. Use dried fruits, nuts, oatmeal, wheat germ, peanut butter and other ingredients to make your own family brand of healthy granola bars.
- Chips your own way: Homemade chips can be healthy alternatives to store-bought bags. You can make your own crackers with a variety of grains, but the basic ingredients are dairy, butter, oil, flour, and the cheese, flavorings, and herbs of your choice. Go the other direction with chips and crackers flavored with honey and cinnamon. Partner your gourmet chips with fruit, cheese, and a multitude of make-your-own dipping sauces (like hummus, guacamole, and many types of veggie salsa or fruit salsa) and you have a healthy snack that easily adds to a positive nutritional profile. Bring your hummus skills center stage by making variations like pepper, black bean, pesto, or avocado hummus.
- Perfect pairs: Slice and top your choice of bagels, or homemade whole wheat or gluten free waffles, with the same types of spreads used for chips. Try peanut butter, or made-ahead chicken or egg salad. Or toast whole wheat grain products lightly and add a smear of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Try something different by spreading ricotta on your bagel and topping with fruit such as blueberries or strawberries. Use half a whole wheat pita the same way, or use sliced pita’s to make quick mini-quesadillas. Pair large stick pretzels with peanut butter and roll in nuts or fruit.
- Classics: Ants on a log cannot be beat for a snack made by children. Fill a celery stick with peanut butter, top with raisins and you have fruit, vegetable, and protein. Apples spread with peanut butter and topped with your favorite diced nuts are a quick, nutritious treat. Try spiced chickpeas, a sure-to-be snack classic. On the stove-top or in the oven, crisp chickpeas sprinkled with the spices of your choice—paprika, salt, pepper, curry— for a crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside treat.
- Fun stuff: Most commercially offered fruit roll-ups actually contain very little fruit. Visit a Farmer’s Market for fruits you can use—you need three or four cups—and make your own. The drying process takes some time, but the end result is a healthy snack you and your family will love. Though smoothies are not a grab and go, they do not take much time to make. You can easily make custom smoothies for yourself or loved ones.