We are a little more than two weeks into a new year. For people who set goals to eat better or to quit smoking, it may be a good time to get some new ideas for healthy snacks.
Snacks — really just small meals — are useful in several ways. One or more well-chosen snacks can make it easier to get the recommended number of servings of vegetables and fruits or other foods every day. Consuming a healthy snack can also take the edge off your appetite, especially when there is a significant time gap between lunch and dinner.
Sometimes people are instructed to eat a series of small meals every day, instead of three large ones, in order to help keep blood sugar levels steady. In her 2010 book, The Complete Nutrition Guide For Women (Penguin Canada), Leslie Beck RD states, “eating a meal or snack every three to four hours will help to boost your metabolism, improve your energy level and maintain a consistent blood sugar level.”
Like any other meals, snacks can make a positive contribution to health or a negative one. Based on my own experience, I think it might be unrealistic to expect people to be consistent in choosing healthy snacks, but it is wise to choose healthy snacks most of the time in order to feel good.
People who are following an eating plan prescribed by a health professional should continue to eat as advised. The suggestions that follow are intended to provide some snacking ideas for healthy people.
Snacking on vegetables or fruits can boost your consumption of servings from this food group, a good idea considering that few of us consume the recommended amount every day (seven to eight servings for females 19 to 50 and eight to 10 for males in that age range; seven for females or males 51 and over). An extra serving at snack time can’t hurt. That can be the usual apple, banana, orange or another option. It might be a 125 mL/ ½ cup serving of canned fruit or a smoothie made with a mixture of frozen fruit or berries with or without a little yogurt and honey or a few cherry tomatoes. It could be a little container of cucumber slices or a few dates or dried apricots.
Having a little protein as part of a snack makes it stick with you for a bit longer. That can take the form of a hard-cooked egg or a small handful of almonds or other nuts or seeds. Choose unsalted nuts because it is a good bet you are already consuming plenty of salt. It has been shown that an excess of salt can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure.
Another protein snack is a spoon of peanut butter spread on crackers or served as a dip for apple sections. You could also choose a small serving of reduced-fat cottage cheese with berries, chopped fruit or dried fruit stirred in.
I particularly like it with raisins. I also enjoy crisp roasted chickpeas, made with the following recipe.
Spicy Chickpea Nibbles
From Vaughan-Johnston, Sally: Fan Fare! Best of Bridge Cookbook, Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2011.
1 can (540 mL/19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
5 mL (1 tsp) paprika
2 mL (½ tsp) garlic powder
2 mL (½ tsp) salt
1 mL (¼ tsp) cayenne pepper (or to taste)
15 mL (1 tbsp) olive oil
Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Line a large rimmed baking sheet with greased foil.
Spread chickpeas on a large plate and blot dry with paper towels.
In a large bowl, combine paprika, garlic powder, salt, cayenne and oil. Add chickpeas and toss to coat.
Spread chickpeas in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, shaking the pan two or three times, until chickpeas are golden brown and starting to crisp.
Turn oven off and leave chickpeas in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes to crisp. Remove from oven and let cool slightly on baking sheet.
Makes 375 to 500 mL (1½ to 2 cups).
Make Ahead: Completely cool baked chickpeas. Store in an airtight container for up to three days.
Variation: Experiment with other seasonings, such as curry powder, smoked paprika or Cajun spice blend.
Having a serving from the milk and alternatives food group can also be a good idea at snack time. Men and women 19 to 50 years of age are recommended to have two servings per day, and those 51 and over, three servings.
It doesn’t sound like much, but many of us regularly fall short. A glass of skim milk or fortified soymilk might be all you need at snack time to keep you satisfied until the next meal. Other options from this food group are a 175 g (¾ cup) serving of yogurt or a little piece of lower-fat cheese.
If snacking is part of your lifestyle, you can do yourself a favour by choosing foods that will protect your health and keep you feeling energetic and well. Keep a selection of healthy foods that you enjoy on hand, and reach for them when it’s time for a snack.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, writes this column every Wednesday. She welcomes comments and can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.