Drop the kids off at school, drive to work, pick the kids up, drive to soccer practice, drive home, sleep and repeat. Sometimes life can be hectic, and when hunger strikes it's easy to grab the first thing you see in the cupboard or fridge. Unfortunately, today's prepackaged food, while convenient, is often high in fat and low in nutrients -- far from a healthy snack.
Junk food doesn't have to be your only option when you're eating on the go. Take some time at the beginning of the week to plan and prepare your healthy snacks and you can ensure that you and your family will eat well, even if it is while you're on the run.
Here are five healthy snacks that you can prepare in advance, so all you need to do is grab and go.
1. Trail mix
For a great midmorning or afternoon energy boost, toss a bag of homemade trail mix into your bag before you leave home. Combine a variety of dry cold cereal with dried fruit and nuts in single-serving-size containers. To get the most nutrition you can from this snack, registered dietitian Fran Berkoff suggests choosing cereal that's high in fibre or whole grains. It's also important to remember that while nuts can be good for you, you should take notice of the calorie count.
2. Raw veggies and fresh fruit
These old standbys may be common-sense choices, but often they are passed up for easy-access convenience snacks. To ensure fruits and vegetables are always at the top of your snack list, clean and prepare a day or two's worth of produce when you get home from the store. Keep snack-size containers or bags of carrot sticks, celery sticks, red pepper slices and broccoli florets in your fridge, ready for the grabbing.
When it comes to fruit, apples and pears are great grab-and-go options. But if you'd like a little more variety, Berkoff suggests making a fruit salad with interesting fruits like mango, papaya and berries that you can eat while in the car or at work or school.
Add a medium-size low-fat skim or soy latté, as Leslie Beck suggests in her book 10 Steps to Healthy Eating (Viking Canada, 2002), and you'll get a nice dose of calcium to go with your nutrient-rich snack. It's an excellent replacement for the usual coffee and doughnut, which provide little more than empty carbs.
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If you have yogurt, soy or skim milk and some fresh fruit on hand you'll always be ready to whip up a smoothie that you can drink on the way to work. In her book, Beck also suggests adding one tablespoon (15 mL) of wheat germ or ground flaxseed to your drink. These ingredients give your smoothie the added value of nutrients such as fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and folate.
4. One slice of whole-grain bread with peanut butter (1 tbsp/15 mL)
Talk about beating your hunger. This is one snack that should easily quiet those rumblings in your stomach until your next meal. This traditional treat has a low glycemic index and will give you a nice hit of protein and fibre, making it a well-rounded snack.
5. Energy bar
If you just cannot find the time to plan your snacks in advance, energy bars can be a good option -- if you know what to look for. Berkoff says to look for ones that are "not loaded with calories and are low in saturated fat, low in trans fats." She also says it's important to make sure the bar you choose fits into your eating style, so it should be higher in carbs if you are looking for an energy boost or higher in protein if you want something more sustaining.
Beck's book also offers information about energy bars as snacks and she recommends choosing a bar with 14 to 18 grams of protein and no more than 200 to 250 calories. She also says to look for bars that have only 20 to 25 grams of carbohydrates. Anything with more than that is designed for people who endure extended workouts.
One final note when looking for a good energy bar snack is to be cautious not to buy meal-replacement bars. Read package labels carefully to avoid getting more calories than you need.
Here are some additional tips from Beck's 10 Steps to Healthy Eating:
• Plan your snacks for the day, just as you plan for meals.
• Be careful not to overconsume. Beck recommends snacks with approximately 150 calories for women and 200 for men.
• Try to include fruit, vegetables and calcium-rich foods (such as milk, yogurt or almonds), and always include some form of carbohydrate (low glycemic index) and protein.
Need more tips for embracing a healthy lifestyle? Find out how to design a healthy kitchen here!
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