Being on the go and busy with activities, we sometimes don’t think we have the time to eat healthfully and snacking can mean grabbing whatever is quick and easy, often a few handfuls of potato chips, something from the vending machine, or a stop at the drive-thru window. But with a little planning and stocking the pantry, healthy snacks can be available at all times, even on the go.
Nutrient-dense foods to satisfy
Snacks are the bridge between meals and are an important part of a balanced diet. They help keep our blood sugar stable and are a source of energy and nutrients. The more nutrients your snack provides, the more satisfied and nourished your body will feel. Nutrient-dense foods give you the most nutrients per calorie, in other words the “biggest bang for your buck”. And since about a quarter of our daily calories come from snacks, a smart way to enhance the nutrition quality of your diet can be to focus on snack time.
So what exactly are nutrients and why do I want them in my snacks? They include vitamins, minerals, fiber, essential fatty acids, phytonutrients, and bioactives. Nutrient-dense snacks are a great way to quickly get in the fuel we need to keep our bodies running and running well as we are constantly on the go with extracurricular activities, homework, work, and more. Examples of nutrient-poor snacks include potato chips, donuts, candy bars, and fast food.
Examples of nutrient-dense snacks:
Importance of protein and essential fats
Both protein and essential fats are the building blocks that our bodies need to function optimally and are key components to a healthy snack. Our bodies use fats and oils to make cell membranes, nerve tissue, and hormones. We use protein to build and maintain muscle, deliver information throughout the body, repair injuries, and protect us from getting sick.
Protein can be found in: animal products (meat, fish, poultry, dairy), nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and vegetables (in small amounts).
Essential fats are found in: nuts, seeds, cold water fish, grass-fed meat, and pasture-raised eggs. See our previous blog post all about essential fats and why they are essential.
Simple tips for healthy snacks:
1) Plan ahead- homemade snacks like trail mix, muffins, bean dips, etc. can be made in bulk and even frozen to save you time. Prepare and package snacks for the busy week on the weekend or in the evening when you have a moment to get organized.
2) Have a go-to list– as stated in our previous post, having a master list of your or your kids’ favorite snack items will save you some time and stress when trying to think of a quick healthy snack on the go. And remember that a good snack includes at least one fruit or vegetable, protein, and an essential fat.
3) Be creative- use foods with different shapes, textures, and colors to inspire imagination, creativity, and appetite. Examples include rainbow fruit kebobs, “ants on a log” (celery sticks, nut butter, raisins), cutout cookies, or homemade gelatin snacks.
4) Be a “sneaky chef”- an easy way to incorporate nutrients into snacks are to include fresh fruit and veggies, but sometimes a picky eater can refuse to eat these foods. Make a quick smoothie or opt for a prepared protein smoothie such as (Naked Juice); sneak in a vegetable to a muffin or another treat such as these almond-carrot truffles.
5) Get support- seeing a nutritionist can open up a whole new world of snack and food ideas since they are the experts on all things diet related. Since each person is a unique individual, nutrition suggestions and recommendations are tailored to your specific needs.
Vital Kids Medicine, PLLC
3216 NE 45th Place suite #212
Seattle, WA 98105