Healthy Snacking 101

Nutritious snacks can be a critical component of a well-rounded diet—and keep everyone in the family happy. Here's how to participate in healthy snacking.

| May/June 2013

Maybe you had an early lunch, hit the gym and now it’s hours from dinner and you’re famished. Or perhaps your children just returned home from school starving. You need a snack that’s tasty, nutritious and easy to make. Of course, “Healthy Snacking 101” isn’t a real course and it’s a pity, not just because it would be a tasty way to earn three credit hours, but also because there’s much to learn. Snacking’s negative reputation is a recent historical development. For most of our time on this planet, humans have snacked on things like foraged nuts and berries, or leftovers from a previous meal. Snacking was a vital way to get energy and nutrients throughout the day. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint a place and date when that began to change, Saratoga Springs, New York, 1853 is a reasonable candidate: That’s where and when the modern-day potato chip is believed to have been invented.

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Fast forward to the present: We live in a busy time in which many families opt to outsource their sustenance to food companies. The days when mothers welcomed children home from school with a plate of fresh-baked cookies and a glass of cold milk aren’t completely over, but they have become rare, with more people juggling parenting and professional responsibilities. As a work-from-home dad, I understand this challenge in a personal way.

To hit the snacking trifecta, we need ideas that not only work for our tastes and health, but also in terms of the time and money we can afford. If offering a good snack were just a question of choosing something your children would enjoy eating, life would be pretty simple. Throw a bag of Doritos and a bottle of Mountain Dew on the table and you’re done. Similarly, if it were merely a question of choosing something quick and healthy, then a $5 premade organic fruit smoothie would always do the trick. But neither is the case.

Healthy Snacking Lesson #1: Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Few of us have the time to offer the perfect homemade option or the budget to provide the healthy organic store-bought option for each snack, which means we need to compensate with our own creativity. The first snacking lesson I can offer is “keep your eye on the prize,” which means our end goal is to make sure a snack offers nutritional value and isn’t just made up of empty sugar calories.

Ideally, a snack should offer a combination of fiber, protein, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. You don’t have to stress about offering all these in a single afternoon, but you should cover the nutritional bases over the course of a few snacks: Carrots sticks and dip one day, healthy oatmeal cookies the next, a green salad with olive oil and vinegar another, a homemade trail mix of nuts, raisins and seeds for a fourth. 

4/25/2013 2:40:03 PM

But I like junk food.

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


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