Monday, March 22, 2010

Eat...super snacks!

We are a continent of snackers...the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study this month which reveals that the time between eating occasions has decreased an average of one hour since 1977 and - surprise surprise! - our average caloric intake has increased by almost 450 calories over the same time period. This study also states that caloric intake from beverages has increased by 45.5% to 422 calories! Time to put the breaks on people!

My European friends remark that "Americans are always eating" and its true! We seem to be lost without food or a drink in our hands. However, I don't want to vilify snacks in and of themselves. We all have different eating personalities: some of us feel great on three "squares" a day and others prefer to nibble all day and hate a full stomach. What is really important that no matter how we prefer to eat, we eat enough...but not too much! The worst case scenario is when that constant nibbling turns from nibbles into feasts.

For many of us, snacks are a vital part of the day and they can do a lot to boost your overall health. Snacks can ensure we feel energized when meals are more than 4 hours apart; snacks can also give us more opportunities to get our fruits and veggies in but we need to define what makes a good snack.

More often than not, we reach for "snack foods" at snack time: granola bars, chips, pretzels, candy and chocolate....not the nutrient dense and nourishing foods we should be reaching for. And wasting calories on drinks? Be it a Frappucino, sugary "vitamin" waters or pop...caloric beverages are usually a nutritional zero and set you up for weight gain in a big way. Calories from drinks don't register with our brain the way calories from foods do, so we typically end up eating more at the next meal than we would have if we had had a food based snack.

So what should we snack on? Real food, please!

Here are 15 super snacks that feature fruits, veggies, lean protein and massive nutritional value.

1. 1 apple, quartered, with 2 slices of lean turkey breast
2. 1 pkg of instant unsweetened oatmeal topped with a banana and a bit of honey
3. 1/2 cup of low fat cottage cheese mixed with 1/2 cup frozen cherries and 1 tsp of hemp seed
4. 1 ounce of mozzarella (or a string cheese) with 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes
5. 2 Ryvita crackers spread with 1 tbsp almond butter
6. 1 apple, sliced, dipped in 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
7. 2 tbsp dried cranberries, 1 tbsp raw almonds & 1 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
8. 1 cup skim milk warmed with 1 tbsp cocoa & 1/2 tbsp sugar or honey
9. 1 mini can of seasoned tuna with 2 Ryvita crackers
10. 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt with 1/2 cup thawed blueberries & 1/3 cup All Bran or Smart Bran
11. 1/2 or 1 Larabar
12. 1/2 cup baby carrots or sliced celery with 1/4 cup hummus
13. 1 slice sprouted grain bread spread with 1 tbsp part skim ricotta and 1 tbsp honey
14. 1/2 tomato & 1/4 cucumber, chopped, with 1 tbsp feta & 1 tbsp dressing
15. 1/2 cup home roasted chick peas

Happy Nutrition Month everyone,
Desiree

(PS..The picture is me in front of a big spread (not fully visible...yes, there was more food!) at my grandmother's house 3 years ago. Frequently heard: "Eat, eat...you are so skinny!" Gotta love a Portuguese grandmother!)
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