Snacking gets many of us through the day, whether we are at a late baseball game with the kids or suffering through a long day at the office. While some pre-packed snacks are easy to grab, they are also loaded with extra sugar, unhealthy fats or loads of sodium. UnityPoint Health Dietitian Michelle Miller tells us the five healthy snacks she recommends and five others you should avoid.
- Recommended: Almond Butter & Celery Sticks
Almond butter contains more vitamin E and iron than regular peanut butter. Celery has key antioxidants and is high in fiber and low in calories.
Avoid: Soda/Diet Soda
These have no nutritional value. Try drinking a flavored sparkling water with slices of fresh fruit instead.
- Recommended: Hummus & Veggies
Hummus is a high-protein snack and also contains fiber, iron, folate and B vitamins. The veggies contain fiber and antioxidants. Miller suggests you eat homemade hummus, if possible. That will help you control salt, calories and ingredients.
Avoid: Granola Bars/Candy Bars
These bars are high in sugar and really supply little to no nutritional value for our body to use. They create an insulin surge and then crash.
- Recommended: Homemade Trail Mix
Homemade trial mix allows you to control the portion size and which ingredients are added to control, sugar, salt and overall calories. When making trail mix, try to select unsweetened and unsalted nuts in order to control sodium and sugars. These nuts will contain high amounts of unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin E and other essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Also, try adding pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds. Additionally, Miller suggests adding small amounts of dried fruit. In moderation, these fruits provide fiber, antioxidants, calcium and vitamins A, C and K. Miller recommends using small amounts to control sugars. It’s always best to choose whole grains when you can, including granola, shredded wheat cereal or whole grain cheerios. If you need a touch of sweetness, a very small amount of M&M’s or chocolate chips can be added, however, most of the time, the dried fruit adds sweetness and more nutrients. Miller says to use candy sparingly.
Avoid: Store-bought Smoothies in Prepackaged Bottles
Miller says to try making your smoothies homemade, so you can control excess sugars and other ingredients, as well as improving overall calories and portion control.
- Recommended: Pistachios
These nuts are in the cashew family and are a great source of healthy fats, fiber and protein. If they are served in the shell, it helps with portion control, since it takes longer to shell and eat. Miller remind us thought that nuts can be high in calories, so it’s important to keep portion control in mind.
Pretzels have little nutritional value and are very high in sodium. They also spike blood sugars.
- Recommended: Fresh Fruit & Yogurt Parfait
Fresh fruits provide antioxidants; they are low in fat, sodium and calories and have no cholesterol. If you can use Greek yogurt, it has double the protein, half the carbohydrates and half the sodium of regular yogurt. Using plain Greek yogurt and sweetening it a bit with a touch of honey is another great way to control sugar consumption.
Avoid: Specialty Coffee Drinks
These drinks are packed with a lot of sugar and have very minimal nutritional value. Miller says they are ok as a treat, once in a while. She suggests ordering them with skim milk, less of the sauces/syrups and skipping the whipped topping. Miller says those small changes will still allow you a treat, but less calories and sugar consumption.
For any questions about building a better diet, contact your UnityPoint Health primary care provider to discuss your specific nutritional needs.
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