It's 10:30 am and your stomach is growling, you just had breakfast but lunch seems so far away. You could choose to satisfy your hunger and hold yourself over with a nutritious snack, or you can wait and wind up in a not-so-pretty starving situation. It's your choice, but I always choose the snack route. Just like the good old days of scheduled snack times in grade school, snacks serve as a source of fuel and help keep our weight in check.
Snacks, when choosing the right ones, should not come with a feeling of guilt; they are a great way to keep you alert and energized, while keeping your blood sugar steady. Now, if you're reaching for candy and soda, then yes, guilt will creep up on you, not to mention the sugar rush and crash leaving you hungry moments later. Steer clear of the vending machine and fill up with nutritious whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and healthy fats. Mini-meals are a great way to maintain energy levels, manage hunger and prevent overeating at your next meal. Think of snacks as the building blocks to your fruit and veggie quota, fiber count, or vitamin and mineral requirements. And remember, a snack is a smart idea when your tummy is asking for it. Build a snack with substance and savor each bite of nourishment! Try one of my five favorites:
Roasted Sweet Veggie Fries
How: Choose root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and squash cut into "fries" and sprinkle with either a "sweet" (cinnamon with agave nectar) or "salty" (sea salt, pepper and chili powder) topping. Bake at 350 degrees until crispy.
Why: A typical serving of fries can contain trans fat and close to 600 calories. Opt for these healthy fries and leave the skins on to soak up essential nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin C, fiber and protein.
How: In a blender, combine 1 c. silken tofu with 1 c. sliced ripe banana, 1 tsp. agave nectar, 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice, a dash orange zest, and 1 tsp. of wheat germ. Puree until smooth.
Why: Traditional pudding is loaded with sugar and can be high in additives and fat. For fewer calories and more nutrients you can enjoy this tofu pudding, which is a great source of calcium and protein as well as other vitamins and minerals. Paired with bananas, which are loaded with potassium and fiber, this "treat" will curb your sweet tooth and dazzle your taste buds.
Honey-Broiled Melon with Greek Yogurt and Walnuts
How: Slice a melon in half, brush with 2 tbsp. lime juice and broil for 3 minutes concave side up on a foil-lined baking sheet at 350 degrees. Top with ¼ cup Greek plain yogurt, 1 tsp. ground flax seeds and 1 tbsp. crushed macadamia nuts.
Why: Nuts and seeds provide healthy monounsaturated fat and protein so you'll feel fuller longer. Eating fiber-rich fruit also provides a feeling of fullness with no fat and few calories. Melons provide vitamins and minerals and are a great thirst-quencher. Plain Greek yogurt is a tasty way to get a dose of calcium and protein for a creamy taste without added sugar.
Toasted Hummus Fennel Disks
How: Slice 1 fennel bulb into disk-like shapes: place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spritz with olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until brown and crispy. Add a dollop of hummus, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, sea-salt, pepper and a drizzle of fresh lemon.
Why: Fennel contains antioxidants and immune support from vitamin C, in addition to its phytonutrients. Hummus is a great source of protein while sesame seeds add to your daily calcium quota.
Zucchini-Nut Butter English Muffin
How: Slice a whole grain English muffin in half: toast and top with 1 tbsp. almond butter and a dollop of shredded zucchini. Sprinkle with stevia, a great sugar substitute.
Why: Almond butter is a healthy monounsaturated fat that not only lowers cholesterol but also slows down digestion to help keep you feeling satisfied. Whole grains are rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber, which supply you with staying power and energy. The soft shell and creamy white flesh of zucchini, loaded with manganese and vitamin C as well as fiber and antioxidants, is the perfect topping for an English muffin.
Amie Valpone is a Manhattan-based Culinary Nutritionist and Health & Food Coach. To read more from Amie, visit her site at thehealthyapple.com.
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