Health & Wellness, Healthy Kids, nutrition

How to make snacks work for you instead of against you

Ahhh snacks. We generally love them. But these little things have the ability to either make or break our healthy eating journey. When you are eating the right type of snacks, the type that fuel your body rather than tax it, they are great! But too often, snacks are made up of “not food” – highly processed or nutrient lacking stuff that can set us up for failure for the rest of the day. When you snack on refined, processed “food-like substances” you end up triggering blood sugar spikes (and subsequent drops), which wreaks havoc on your hormones. This sets you up for cravings and for overeating at meal times, not to mention the hungry feeling you get when your blood sugar drops rapidly.

So if we want to be only eating “good” snacks, what the heck are those then? First, we want our snack to be as close to the whole food as possible (think whole apple is better than apple sauce is better than apple flavored cereal). We also want our snack to be a balance of fat, protein, and carbs. You want at least two of the macronutrients represented in your snack. So instead of just an apple, pair an apple with nut butter (carb and fat). This is what helps to keep our blood sugar stable and what allows us to feel full for longer. Here are some examples of what good snacks look like:

  • Apple slices and nut butters
  • Apple and cheese slices (remember to go for the organic and full fat cheese)
  • Veggie sticks and hummus (favorite veggies at our house are baby carrots, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, bell pepper slices, mini sweet peppers, zucchini sticks, cucumber slices – there is a ton of variety possible here!)
  • Any of the veggies above and guacamole
  • Banana and peanut butter on a sprouted grain bread
  • Probiotic beef sticks with baby bell cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs (alone or with guacamole)
  • Sardine or tuna salad with whole grain crackers
  • Tomato slices and mozzarella
  • Full-fat, plain organic greek yogurt with berries
  • A handful of nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc)
  • Dates stuffed with nut butter or goat cheese

Aaand now I’m hungry…

Hopefully the examples above help to show how your are pairing a quicker burning carbohydrate (the fruit or veggie) with a fat or protein source to get the most bang for your buck out of your snack. After all, you are taking time out of your (extra busy) day to eat, so let’s make that food work FOR you instead of against you!

Now to talk about all the other stuff that is constantly marketed as snack food to us. Much like Voldemort is HeWhoShallNotBeNamed, these should actually be called ThingsThatAreNotReallyFood. In this category, I am talking about stuff that is highly processed, high in sugar and refined carbs, and low in nutrients. The list includes stuff like chips, pretzels, goldfish (yeah, I went there), GoGurts or those sugary low-fat Yoplait things, granola, candy bars (actually, in the long run snickers do NOT satisfy), 98% of the “health” food bars on the market, cookies, little debbie anything, breakfast bars, pop tarts, the 100 calorie packages of XYZ junk food, fruit snacks, cereal, and the list goes on.

Maybe some of you are annoyed that I listed some of your go-to items on the list. But here is the #truthbomb: these foods are not doing anything for your overall health and wellness. They aren’t helping you to fuel your body and your day so that you have the energy you need to live your life. They may taste good for a minute, but there is mountains of evidence that they are damaging to your health in the long run. They make it harder for you to eat healthily later in the day, they recondition your tastes to make you crave more junk, and with that reconditioning, they take the enjoyment out of actual good nutritious food. This is an area where I say moderation is NOT a thing, you really don’t want to eat this type of junk at all. If your honest with yourself, you probably already know this deep down. #sorrynotsorry

And now that I’ve lost half my readers, lets talk about the secret weapon to staying on track with your health and nutrition goals: the emergency #snackstash

If you have been working on your nutrition overall, you know how frustrating it is when you are caught late at work, or traffic hits, or errands with the littles take 1000x longer than expects and you are out of the house and STARVING. It’s even worse when you also have ultra hungry kids with you. So you go looking for something to eat NOW and you try to make the best selection from what is available, but only have bad options. Or what’s even worse is when you are so hungry, you can’t even care anymore about what you eat as long as you eat it. This situation is incredibly frustrating and I know that I’ve often felt pretty crappy afterwards, not only because the food isn’t the greatest, but also because I “messed up” or “slipped up” or had no “willpower” to resist.

To prevent this from happening, we want to keep a set of “emergency” snacks with you at all times. I accomplish this in two ways: I have a special snack drawer at work that I keep stocked with a bunch of shelf stable options and I have a set of go-to items that I always keep in the diaper bag (or my work bag if I’m out without the kids). Here’s a picture of my snack drawer at work and some of the options I keep with me when running around with the kids.

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When developing your emergency #snackstash you want to keep a couple things in mind. If you are getting shelf stable options, you want to find things that are as unprocessed as possible (like the Rx bars, the probiotic beef sticks, and the olives). Finding a high quality protein powder “meal replacement” mix can also be a good idea for work, especially if you work in an unpredictable environment like I do (where if something breaks at 4pm, you may have to stay until 9).

The second, and probably more important thing to realize when creating the #snackstash is that a LOT of whole food items that we refrigerate actually do not need to be refrigerated continuously. Things like small apples, cuties, and bananas can be taken around in a bag and survive easily due to their exterior skiing. Fresh veggies like snap peas, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes will be 100% fine unrefrigerated for 24 hours (or longer), so you can tote those with you. The baby bell cheeses (the ones with the wax coating) are good for up to 8 hours outside of the fridge (which is one of the reasons they are so popular with hikers). You can also get a mini insulated container for stuff like hard boiled eggs. You can also bring along individually sized packets of hummus, guacamole, and nut butters to complete your snacks on the go!

One more note on the #snackstash – as busy moms, we are probably pretty used to carrying around snacks for our kids. I want to encourage you to look at those snacks as well and change them out if they fall into the unhealthy category. To be blunt: if the snack isn’t healthy enough for you to be eating, it’s not healthy enough for the kiddos either. My go-to options for our girls (ages 5 and 2) are fruit and veggie blend pouches, Rx bars, the probiotic beef sticks, and baby bell cheese. With kids, you don’t necessarily have to change out all of their snacks at once (although sometimes that rip-the-band-aid-off approach is the least stressful). You can introduce a new healthy option every few days to see what they will like. As you are introducing new options, use up whatever the unhealthy option is and when it’s gone it becomes “Sorry, we are out of XYZ. What would you like instead?” #juststopbuyingit

Whew, that was a LOT of information in one post. I hope you found it helpful! Please comment below and let me know what you think. And once you have created your emergency healthy snack stash, take a picture and post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc and tag me so I can see your hard work! Use #snackstash and #nutritiondoula so I can find it – good luck and have fun!

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