Our favorite healthy snack options and strategies:
Snacks are a big challenge, especially if you have kids who like to graze. We’ve got a two year old and four year old who rarely eat more than a few bites at a time. Or maybe you’re they type who likes to snack instead of eating meals. Actually, research(1) suggests that eating five or six small meals a day helps prevent obesity, though it doesn’t seem to make a difference in losing weight. But at the same time, snacking on junk food adds tons of calories as well as spiking blood sugar.
Snacking can be a great way to maintain your energy throughout the day. It can also keep you from getting hungry enough to binge when unhealthy foods might tempt you. below are some ideas for snacks and suggestions for how to make them available when you need them.
Ways to make it easy to pick the healthy option:
For us the biggest obstacles are
- Taking the time to find and make healthy snacks.
- Making them available so we and our kids will reach for them instead of sugary and fatty snacks.
Taking the time:
When it comes to taking the time to make the snacks, it’s been really helpful for us to have one or two days during the week when we pull out the tupperware and ziplock bags to stock up for the week. This means no apple slices since our kids won’t eat brown apple slices. Instead of snacks with a one or two day shelf life, pick ones that last all week. Remember, chips and candy last for years, ease of storage is one of the big appeals for that sort of food.
We have our list of snacks we make and every time we go shopping (usually once or twice a week) we buy all the ingredients for the snacks. When we get home, or shortly after, we divide up the snacks into their containers. We check the current snacks and see which ones we’re not eating (and quit making them). We also see which ones have gone bad and we toss those out. By making this a part of the grocery shopping process it always gets done.
Making healthy snacks available:
The other issue is making them available. When my wife was growing up she remembers how much easier it was to grab the unhealthy snacks than the healthy ones. The fruit and vegetables were hidden away in a drawer in the refrigerator while the chips and cookies were often on the counter. The first thing to remember is that, at least at first, CHIPS AND COOKIES JUST TASTE BETTER. I don’t care who says otherwise, there is a reason why, unless you are really disciplined, you always reach for the sweets and salty snacks first. At least I always do. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be struggling with healthy eating in the first place.
So how do you fix this??? The answer of course is simple, quit buying unhealthy snacks, quit baking cookies/brownies/cakes, and quit picking up fast food or pizza. If you have these available you’re probably going to keep eating them. The trick to reaching for the healthy option is to make it easier to get than the unhealthy option. And it needs to be much easier to get. That’s the upside of being busy; if it takes too much time and energy, even the sweetest chocolate or tastiest pizza won’t be worth getting.
The secret then is quit buying unhealthy foods and they won’t be available. Instead figure out what healthy foods you and your family like and put these in a visible, accessible place and keep it fully stocked. Valerie set up the drawer right at our kids eye level as the snack drawer. All the food is in clear tupperware containers so they can easily see what’s available. She also noticed that putting a variety of fruits or vegetables together made them more appealing to the kids than if she only put one thing per container. The best thing is to keep trying different foods and approaches till you find what works best for you and your family.
What about when you’re at work?
Remember, it’s all about ease of preparation, and accessibility. I tend to snack when I’m bored so what I’ve done at work is to carry a bag of almonds with me so I always have something to snack on. These are great since they have a lot of health benefits while easing hunger. Keeping an apple or banana around is another good choice, but just remember to pick something that you like and can keep close by. Also, make sure to snack regularly. I’ve noticed I’m more likely to be tempted by junk food if I’m getting hungry. So, if you’ve got something to snack on regularly you won’t feel hungry when confronted with that box of donuts.
What if you don’t buy the food?
The hard part here is if you are not the one who buys the food at home. In this case, the best option is to always keep your healthy snacks easily available. Also, have a talk with your family about keeping their unhealthy foods off the counters, and behind closed doors. Better yet, talk with them about supporting you by eating healthy as well. You are far more likely to succeed if you have the support of those living with you.
Some Healthy Snacks We’ve liked:
Carrot sticks, broccoli, cucumbers and other cut veggies: My wife cuts these up every few days and puts them in small tupperware containers. She also has smaller, dip size containers with low calorie dressings or hummus to dip the veggies in.
Applesauce cups (no sugar added but cinnamon is ok) either buy the cups which is easy, or get the bigger jars and put it into small tupperware containers.
celery sticks with peanut butter on them (3 day shelf life) don’t buy peanut butter with added sugar.
Apples. Buy small apples as these are the right size for a snack. We like Fuji apples since they are usually more flavorful than the red delicious. I think red delicious taste like cardboard. Wet cardboard.
Nuts. Almonds are good, though I prefer roasting them lightly beforehand as it improves the flavor. Avoid salted or candied nuts.
Miniature oranges, They’re cute, small, and come individually wrapped (I mean in their peel of course)
Yogurt. Look at the sugar content before buying these as some have LOTS of added sugar. One trick companies do with foods that say low fat or light is to add sugar. Watch out for this.
These are only a few possibilities, use whatever works for you. Just remember to avoid sugars, refined flour, excess salt, or foods with a short shelf life.