At first glance, healthy eating seems simple: We should eat when we are hungry and make mostly nutritious choices like veggies, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains. We should exercise and balance the calories we take in with the calories we burn off. The concept is elementary. But unfortunately, healthy eating is anything but simple. We make food choices for many reasons besides hunger: cravings, boredom, celebration, loneliness, convenience, lack of time. We are complex creatures.
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We all live in a busy world full of deadlines and demands. It can sometimes seem as if nothing is easy and we are not in control of much of our lives. But we do have control over what we feed our families, and darn it, our snacks should be easy and healthy.
What makes a healthy snack? Any time you pair complex carbs such as veggies, fruits and whole grains with lean proteins such as eggs, seeds, nuts, beans and dairy, you have a healthy snack.
We all have regular snacks we rotate through, but we would be wise to widen our repertoire. It’s when we get bored eating the same things but haven’t planned ahead that we’re most likely to reach for something unhealthy.
To solve this problem, we can seek out—and buy the ingredients for—interesting snack ideas. Many people make shopping lists for main courses, but forget to think about including healthy snack options.
It’s easy to find creative snack ideas online, but remembering those ideas when we’re actually hungry is a challenge. If you use a smartphone or tablet, keep a note or spreadsheet of ideas handy, complete with links. For the less technically savvy, an old-fashioned list stuck to the fridge will work. I recently installed a magnetic dry-erase board in my kitchen for meal planning, snack ideas and shopping lists.
Healthy convenience foods can be split into two types: quick-fix and make-ahead. Think of quick-fix snacks as anything you can toss together in less than two minutes. To have make-ahead snacks on-hand for convenience, consider making big batches on the weekend.
As a mom who works full-time, I value quick-fix snacks. I often walk in the door at 5:30 with two hungry kids in tow, but it’ll still be 30 to 45 minutes before we have dinner. I want to give them (and me) a little something, so they (and I) don’t completely melt down, but I want them to still have an appetite for dinner. This is a fine line. When I have more time on the weekends, I can also make my week easier by preparing healthy make-ahead snacks that are ready to roll when weeknight hunger strikes.
These simple snacks are easy to throw together in a rush—older kids can make them themselves.
When you have a bit of extra time over the weekend, here are a few more ideas for healthy snacks that take some work on the front end, but are a big time-saver later on. If you have extra little hands available, keep them busy measuring, pouring and stirring.
For even more healthy snack recipes, check out our Healthy Snacking collection page.