Snacking doesn’t have to be a dirty word. But often a quick bite to curb your hunger can turn into mindless eating that amounts to a whole extra meal every day, loaded with unintended calories.
Snacking now accounts for more than 25 per cent of the daily calorie intake for the average person, at close to a total of 600 calories each day.
It’s no surprise. Snacking outside of home, where you don't have the ease of a thoughtfully stocked fridge and pantry to raid, can be a dietary minefield. More and more, we're eating on the run — 50 per cent of the time, in fact. Convenience foods are available everywhere, but that doesn't mean they're a good idea. Many packaged choices are full of fat, calories, sodium and added sugar. Research has shown that when we have a craving for food, we only need half as much as we think we do to be satisfied, so you could just eat half of your impulse purchase. Easier said than done when you've got a whole bag of candy and nobody to share it with, right?
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But who has time to read labels, hunting for the best option, when you're hungry and in a hurry? The key to healthy snacking on the run is to keep those snacks with you, so that you aren't stuck in a desperate situation when you’re already famished. And it's a lot easier to say no to chocolate bar or bag of chips when you know that you've got something healthy and delicious in your bag or purse already.
Besides, snacking can be good for us: some studies have shown that eating less food at several intervals throughout the day is better for controlling weight than having three larger meals, and well-planned snacks can prevent overeating at meals. If you're stuck buying something on the go, look for the 100-calorie packages that have become increasingly popular over the past few years, thanks to research by Cornell University professor Brian Wansink, who's run numerous studies on eating behaviour.
But if you can have one of these 10 great snacks on hand when hunger strikes, you're already ahead of the game.
Roasted Chickpeas: There are as many ways to prepare roasted chickpeas as there are herbs and spices. Try making them with spices that you love from a favourite dish or cuisine, like curry powder for an Indian flavour or cumin and chili powder to for a Mexican variation. The recipe is simple: toss a can of chickpeas with a bit of oil and your chosen spices, and bake your chickpeas at 400C until they're golden and crunchy.
Salad In A Jar: Salads can be both nutritious and versatile, because they’re endlessly customizable, but they can be messy and difficult to transport. Also, mixing in your dressing in advance can make your greens soggy, but carrying it on the side can lead to a work bag full of Catalina. The solution? Salad in a jar! This was all over Pinterest a few months ago, and for good reason: by layering the salad ingredients, with dressing at the bottom and greens at the top, they all stay fresh until you dump them in a bowl.
Hummus And Carrot Sticks: Hummus is made with chickpeas, which are full of protein and fibre and a good source of iron. Good thing it's also delicious. There are many ways to get hummus into your mouth, but we recommend freshly cut carrot sticks or bagged baby carrots—they've got a satisfying crunch and are a great way to get some vitamin A in your diet. If you're feeling adventurous, try making your own hummus at home.
Fresh Fruit: Fresh fruits are nature's first convenience food — bananas and oranges even come with their own biodegradable packaging. It's hard to mess up this one, but we recommend choosing fruits that are in season locally. That way your already healthy snack will also be cost conscious and at its peak of flavour and freshness.
Green Smoothies: You can really customize a daily smoothie to fit whatever nutritional needs you to need to address. Add hemp seeds or ground flax for a dose of healthy omega fats. Get some potassium and fibre by throwing a banana into the blender. Add protein with a powder supplement or soy milk. Our favourite smoothie booster is a handful of healthy fresh greens, like spinach. It's a great way to get the benefits of these healthy vegetables. Oh She Glows has a selection of recipes for "green monster" smoothies that are so delicious that you'll never guess they're great for you.
Kale Chips: Kale is having its moment in the nutritional sun right now. This hot leafy green has become increasingly popular not just for its great taste but also because of its abundance of fibre and iron, among other key nutrients. Kale's great in salads, but you can also make it into chips by baking it in the oven, adding your favourite seasonings to replicate the taste of your favourite fried snacks without all the fat and calories. We suggest tossing the shredded kale with apple cider vinegar and sea salt.
Ants On A Log: Ants on a log — celery stalks filled with peanut butter and topped off with raisins — might remind you of snack time in kindergarten, but did you know that celery is a source of potassium? The peanut butter gives you a kick of protein while the raisins throw some fibre into the mix. You can make this one a little more grown up by trying a different nut butter, like cashew, or by substituting dried cranberries for raisins. Personally, we think that the classic version is yummy, too.
Veggies And Dip: Think of what you'd love to see on a crudite plate, and get it on the go. Broccoli, peppers, carrots, celery, and cauliflower are all great options for snacking. They take a while to eat so you won't rush past your full point, and munching on them throughout the day can help you reach your recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. Baba ganoush, made with eggplants, is a great dip option.
Edamame: Steamed and salted edamame pods are to the Japanese what peanuts and popcorn are to North Americans — they're a standard bar snack across the Pacific. They're a lot healthier than our favourites, because edamame are fresh green soybeans, which means that they're full of protein. They're delicious with just a sprinkle of sea salt.
Pumpkin Seeds: It's a shame that a pumpkin’s seeds usually get thrown away when we carve out our jack-o’lanterns at Halloween, because they're very nutritious. Pumpkin seeds are full of antioxidants, and they're a great source of immune-boosting zinc. Like chickpeas, you can toss them with spices and a bit of oil and roast them, but they're also delicious raw. If you can find them, get your seeds unshelled to get your full boost of zinc. The shells are edible.