Snacking throughout the day may seem like a bad diet idea, but good-for-you snacks provide the body and brain with needed fuel. And you need to power up for all those summertime activities, like beach excursions, mountain hikes and sunset walks.
“Eating something healthy every three to four hours prevents overeating and helps maintain blood sugar levels,” says Henry Ford registered dietitian nutritionist Jennifer Elkins.
Of course, Elkins’s snacking endorsement doesn’t mean you should load up on convenience foods. Instead, she suggests aiming for healthy snacks that supply about one-quarter of your daily calories along with some fiber and protein to keep your metabolism humming.
Sound like a tall order? Don’t worry! With a little prep work, healthy summer snacking is as simple as knowing what to stash in your beach bag. Here are Elkins’s top 6 suggestions:
- Choose produce. Raw vegetables and fruits are great grab-and-go snacks. Not only do they taste good and travel well, but they’re also loaded with disease-fighting nutrients. Even dried and roasted fruits and vegetables are solid choices, provided you keep the serving size of dried fruits around ¼ cup. Ants on a log (celery ribs spread with cream cheese or nut butter and dotted with raisins) are a personal favorite!
- Raise the bar. Instead of purchasing pre-made granola bars, which are often little more than glorified candy bars, break out a cookie sheet and bake your own. The best recipes include fiber-rich oats, dried fruits, nuts, or even flax or hemp seeds.
- Opt for low-fat dairy. Dairy isn’t as travel-friendly as other snacks, but portion controlled packs of plain Greek yogurt are a snap to pack, and last for up to 2 hours out of the fridge. Toss in low-sugar granola or some dried fruit for interest. Yogurt also provides probiotics, good bacteria that help promote a healthy GI tract. Just make sure to read the label. Some single-pack yogurts and yogurt drinks have more sugar than a candy bar. Reduced-fat string cheese is another healthful on-the-go option.
- Go nuts. Get your chip fix with 1 ounce of unsalted nuts or seeds, such as pumpkin or sunflower. You can even make your own trail mix to keep the dried fruit component (and sugar content) to a minimum. Mix a handful of almonds with a small square of 70% dark chocolate for an indulgent yet heart-healthy snacking experience. For convenience and calorie control, pack the mix in small baggies to stash in your car, purse, office or beach bag.
- Don’t discount dips. Raw veggies are even tastier with a small portion of guacamole, hummus or yogurt as a dip. Don’t have time to make your own? Most grocery stores carry portion-controlled snack packs of popular dips like hummus.
- Amp up your sandwich. Even though they’re typically associated with a meal, sandwiches are a great solution when you need a more substantial snack. From peanut butter banana to turkey and cheese, many homemade sandwiches are both nutritious and delicious. And you can include both meat and veggies to stave off hunger pangs.
If you haven’t had a bite in three hours or more, grab one of Elkins’s favorite food fixes:
- Fresh fruit with low-fat cheese
- Raw veggies with ¼ cup hummus for dipping
- Whole grain crackers with 1 ounce of low-fat cheese or 1 tablespoon of nut butter
- ¼ cup trail mix
- ½ cup (small handful) of high-fiber cereal mix
Of course, according to Elkins, the most important snack for summer isn’t a snack at all. It’s water. The key to staying active and having fun is making sure you’re well-hydrated. Your best bet when you’re on the go: Pack frozen water bottles. When they thaw, they make for great summertime sipping, and they’ll help your body absorb the nutrients from your scrumptious snacks.
Looking for more info and want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian? Call 1-855-434-5483 or visit Nutrition Services on henryford.com.
Jennifer Elkins is registered dietitian nutritionist with the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.