The word snack often sounds like a bad word. Truth is, snacks can be a big help. When snacking properly you can actually speed up your metabolism, increase energy, reduce cravings for unhealthy foods, and avoid overeating at meals.
During the day you should eat every 2-3 hours to balance your blood sugar levels, and this is especially important if you lead an active lifestyle. Your blood sugar levels are only as good as the meal you last consumed, and that is why eating smaller meals more frequently is a smart decision for active people.
Of course, what you snack on matters. Dipping into the ice cream or munching on potato chips isn’t ideal. In fact, snacking on junk food and other nutrient-void foods does much more harm than good. Here are some healthy, beneficial snack ideas:
- Fresh rice cakes (unsalted, plain or sesame seed – Japanese rice cakes are also recommended)
- Oat cakes or non-wheat bread with hummus, tahini, guacamole, goat’s cheese, nut butter or honey
- Homemade popcorn is another good snack food, but try to eat it plain or with a light sprinkle of sea salt
- Cherry tomatoes with a few chunks of goat’s cheese
- Half an avocado sprinkled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- Mixed nuts and seeds (like a small handful of a mixture of Brazil nuts, almonds, hazel nuts and walnuts)
- Add roasted sesame, sunflower or pumpkin seeds to various vegetarian or meat dishes, or just grab some for a quick snack (these can also help stimulate digestion and improve bowel function)
- Cashew nut patties are a delicious high protein snack
- Healthy pancakes, made from brown rice and tapioca flours
- Raw vegetables served with tahini, hummus or guacamole
- A fresh juice, smoothie or non-dairy milk shake
- Fresh fruit salad – melon, kiwifruit, grapes, apple, pear, etc. (Be mindful of fruit, especially when dealing with adrenal fatigue. Go for fruits with lower fructose. If it makes you feel worse, avoid it.)
- Hummus – a healthy chickpea and tahini snack which is a perfect food to accompany finger foods such as carrot, celery and cucumber sticks
- Gomashio is a simply delicious and highly addictive Japanese condiment made from roasted sesame seeds and sea salt, which can be used as a food topper or eaten alone as a snack
Nuts and Seeds
Roasted nuts and seeds may taste better, but raw versions tend to be much healthier. Store nuts and seeds in a cool area, as their high fat content can cause rancidity. In fact, you are best to freeze nuts to delay rancidity and oxidation.
Seeds are generally best in some type of bar for ease of eating. The best nuts in my opinion are almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts. In my opinion peanuts are not the best choice, as they tend to cause the most allergic reactions. Incidentally, they are a legume and not a nut.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the ready-to-eat snack foods straight from nature. Apples, pears, oranges, carrots, peas in the pod, celery and tomatoes are healthy hunger busters. Some of your best choices are small (or a half a large) avocado, celery or carrot strips, radishes, and strips of red bell pepper along with some hummus for dipping.
There are some healthy breakfast cereals available for snacking, but check the sugar content closely. It is better if you make your own muesli or granola, and the recipe varieties are endless. Be sure to select the freshest ingredients from your local health food store. Check out the recipe for Healthy Oat Cereal for example, or my own Bakker’s Muesli.
Instead of just plain old homemade popped corn, save time by picking up a pack of naturally puffed millet, puffed brown rice or puffed yellow corn from the health section of your supermarket. The puffed golden millet includes the millet germ. They have no sugar, salt or artificial additives and taste terrific with a health topping like smoked salmon, cheese or avocado. It doesn’t have to be boring; just use your imagination!
Avoid Sugary Snacks
Maintaining a healthy diet means (virtually) abstaining from sweet foods – lollies, cakes, desserts, and the like, as their primary ingredients have be found to be less than wholesome. Sugary snack foods upset nutritional balances and moods, so, with our busy lifestyles, having the right healthy snack food on hand is vital.
Healthy drinks include pure water, prune juice, pure vegetable and fruit juices and spirulina, which are nice to sip during the day. Most of your hydration should come from water. Staying hydrated can itself ward off ‘false hunger’ and help maintain energy levels.
First-Aid Snack Kit
A snack first aid kit at the office or in the pantry for after school will ensure you have a constant source of nutritious goodies to dissuade against junk purchases. Only a limited amount of branded supermarket snack bars (but most are junk and you are best to make your own) can be included to reduce kitchen tasks, but check the nutritional labels for fat and sugar content, as some are not as healthy as they appear.
Those with blood sugar problems especially need to be aware of the sugar content in snack bars in the form of glucose, honey and fructose and dried fruits. These bars come in variety of nut and seed mixtures and can be honey sweetened and carob or yogurt coated. Some include dried fruits such as apricot, almond and cashew. Watch out for the artificial sugars!
About the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 27 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida, psoriasis, as well as adrenal fatigue, thyroid and digestive disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. He has also written what may well be the most comprehensive Natural Psoriasis Treatment Program available. You can find more articles by Dr. Bakker on his blog at www.ericbakker.com