Snacking gets many of us through the day, whether at a late sports game with the kids or suffering through a long day of work. While some pre-packed snacks are easy to grab, they’re also loaded with extra sugar, unhealthy fats or loads of sodium. Michelle Miller, dietitian for UnityPoint Health, gives her list of dietitian approved snacks.
Healthy Snacks vs. Unhealthy Snacks
- Healthy: 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.
Unhealthy: Soda/Diet Soda
These have no nutritional value. Try drinking a flavored sparkling water with slices of fresh fruit instead.
- Healthy: Hummus & Veggies
Hummus is a high-protein snack and contains fiber, iron, folate and B vitamins. The veggies contain fiber and antioxidants. Miller suggests homemade hummus, if possible. That’ll help you control salt, calories and ingredients.
Unhealthy: Granola Bars/Candy Bars
These bars are high in sugar and supply little to no nutritional value for our body to use. They create an insulin surge followed by a crash.
- Healthy: Homemade Trail Mix
Homemade trial mix is an easy, healthy snack that allows you to control the portion size and ingredients 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, dried fruit adds sweetness and more nutrients. Miller says to use candy sparingly.
Unhealthy: 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.
- Healthy: Pistachios
These easy, healthy snacks are in the cashew family and are a great source of healthy fats, fiber and protein. If served in the shell, it helps with portion control, since it takes longer to shell and eat. Miller reminds us 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.
- Healthy: Fresh Fruit & Yogurt Parfait
Fresh fruits provide antioxidants; they’re 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.
Unhealthy: 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.
What are 4 Easy, Healthy After-school Snacks for Kids?
Any of the options above are great for after-school snacks. Here are few of Miller’s other favorites.
- Melon ball skewers. Use a melon baller to scoop melon and put on a toothpick for a fun snack. This is loaded with vitamins and minerals — especially vitamin C.
- Apple, peanut butter sandwiches. Slice apples and put together with peanut butter or a nut-free butter. Top with raisins. This snack option is full of fiber and healthy fats.
- Avocado toast strips. Toast multigrain bread and top with avocado, then, cut into stripes. Add sliced baby tomatoes and a squeeze of lime juice. For a flavor kick, add a sprinkle of Everything but The Bagel seasoning. Healthy fats and fiber are prominent in this after-school snack.
- Frozen blueberry yogurt bites. Take fresh blueberries and dunk in vanilla (regular or Greek) yogurt. Place on parchment paper and freeze for a fun, sweet snack. These sweet treats are full of antioxidants and probiotics.
100th Day of School Snack Idea
The 100th day of school is a fun day for many young students. If you’re trying to think of snacks to send with your kiddo for sharing, Miller says try using homemade trail mix (see above) and get counting. Put 100 pieces in each small-portion baggie or container.
Birthday School Snack Ideas
If you’re trying to think of a unique and healthy birthday treat to send with your child, Miller suggests the frozen blueberry bites (above). Otherwise, try a fruit kabob or a zucchini or banana muffin made with applesauce to avoid excess sugars. Then, the kiddos will still reap the benefits of the fruit or veggie that you won’t get with a traditional cake or cupcakes.
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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