Homemade, heart-healthy snacks are a great way to live healthy even when you’re on-the-go. Lately though, it seems the word “snack” has become intertwined with “junk food,” and it’s time for a makeover. Snacks don’t have to be high-calorie, high-sugar, high-fat indulgences purchased from a machine or a drive-through window. With a little planning, snacks can be delicious, energizing edibles that come from your own kitchen and be eaten on the go.
Kathy McManus, director of nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, says that snacks are actually a great way to sneak more fruits and vegetables in your diet. But it’s important to keep your snacks varied so you don’t get bored. McManus says the ideal power snacks tend to involve a fruit or vegetable, a little bit of protein and sometimes a whole grain. “It should taste good, it should be pleasing to the eye, it should be not too complicated,” she says.
McManus adds that the first step toward healthy eating is preparation. When you pack your own healthy snacks, it’s easier to avoid the alluring treats that spring up in break rooms, teachers’ lounges, vending machines, office candy dishes and drive-through restaurants. “Come prepared,” she says. “You’re less likely to succumb to the temptations.”
McManus shared the following eight healthy snacks to take on-the-go.
These are one of the easiest and most convenient snacks available. Nuts are heart-healthy, as they can help lower your LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol, and they have protein, fiber and the healthy type of fat. Plus, they don’t need refrigeration or heat. The important thing to remember with nuts is to choose the unsalted kind and watch your portion control. Because they’re high in calories, you should limit yourself to one serving or 1.5 oz at a time (roughly one handful). Do that by portioning the nuts into small bags ahead of time so you can eat them while working or running errands, without overindulging. Walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts are all great options.
2. Fruit and yogurt
Nonfat, plain Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt) is both portable and energizing. Grab a prepackaged individual serving or portion out your own servings a cup at a time and top it with a quarter-cup of fresh fruit, such as berries, cherries or pomegranate (frozen berries work as well). This snack is a good source of protein and calcium, plus it’s quick and satisfying. Apples and nonfat cottage cheese are a similar variation that offers calcium, fiber and protein.
3. Apples and peanut butter
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. Slice apples in thin circles and smear with a tablespoon of peanut butter, like you would a cracker. For added crunch, top it with a couple of slivered almonds. With the combination of healthy fat, natural carbs, protein and fiber, this is a satisfying snack with a rewarding crunch. Try natural or organic peanut butter to minimize unnecessary, artificial ingredients in your diet.
4. Hummus and veggies
Slice green and yellow peppers, cucumber, raw broccoli, green beans or whatever vegetables you like and portion them out in small bags. Take along about two tablespoons of hummus, and you’ll have a snack that has a great balance of healthy fat, protein, vegetables and, most important, great taste. Mix up the vegetables to keep it interesting. You don’t always have to eat celery and carrots.
5. DIY fro-yo
Blend a cup of your favorite fresh or frozen berries in a food processor with a cup of non-fat yogurt, pour it in a cup and freeze. Voila, you have fro-yo to go. With a healthy combination of protein, calcium and fruit, this will give you high energy and great taste.
6. DIY pizza
Pizza doesn’t have to be brimming with fat and calories. For an easy snack, take half of a whole grain English muffin, top it with chopped tomatoes, a small amout of shredded low fat mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of dried oregano and place it in the toaster oven or under the broiler. Eat it hot or pack it and take it along for later when you’re ready for a quick and delicious bite.
Oatmeal tastes good any time of the day. Simply microwave a quarter cup of oats with water and top it with half of a banana and some slivered almonds or raisins and cinnamon. Put it in Tupperware and take it along with you. This whole grain will power you through your afternoon slump. Plus, you won’t need to refrigerate it, and it’ll be ready to eat whenever you are.
You can prepare them in the pod by steaming or microwaving them or you can buy them already shelled. Enjoy Enjoy a handful of fresh, shelled soybeans, or try them frozen by running them under steaming-hot water for a quick thaw. Squeeze a touch of lemon for a brighter taste. Edamame not only offers a break from your typical snack, but is low in sodium and a source of protein.