Snack food has gotten a bad rap, mainly because a lot of it is, well, bad for us. Most of the processed foods in our office kitchenettes and on-the-go convenience stores are loaded with preservatives, refined sugars, and saturated fat. But snacking, when done right, is a healthyand necessarypart of a well-balanced diet.
In my upcoming book, Naturally Thin (in stores January 2009), I promote snacking and "spoiling your appetite" wisely. For example, a smart snack of 200 calories an hour or two before going out will save you hundreds of unnecessary calories later on; it'll prevent you from overeating at a cocktail party or overindulging in the bread basket at a restaurant. Here are my favorite snacks, and the best ways to fit them into your day.
These soybean pods used to be an inaccessible item found only at Japanese restaurants. Now, most supermarkets and almost all health-food stores have them in the freezer aisle. Just microwave them, sprinkle with kosher salt, and start nibbling. They are delicious, high fiber, and high in proteinthe perfect snack. Plus, soy contains plant compounds called isoflavones, which can help guard against breast cancer. For the best taste and texture (and also the most fun to eat!), buy them in their pods, unshelled.
Bread and (nut) butter
I'm a big fan of the cinnamon-raisin and sesame-seed varieties of Food For Life sprouted grain breads, toasted and topped with all-natural almond or cashew butter. I also adore their sprouted grain English muffins, with the insides scooped out. Don't worry, they're still hearty and fillingespecially when toasted with melted soy-cheese slices. When you're really hungry, take a piece of sprouted grain bread, top it with a microwaved garden-vegetable Boca Burger, and add soy cheese for a hearty 220-calorie snack.
For a lighter snack with a bit of protein, I like Glenny's Soy Crisps. A bag is 140 calories and there are delicious flavors like cheddar, salt and pepper, and barbecue. A good sweet snack is a handful of dark chocolate pieces mixed with nuts. The chocolate has antioxidants (choose at least 60% cocoa content), while the nuts have protein and balance the sugar. The result is satisfying and delicious, but be sure to watch your portions since this one's also high in fat and calories.
Fill up on veggies
When you really want a hearty meal but it's not yet dinner time, hold yourself over with a small baked sweet potato topped with a dash of low-fat sour cream, whipped cottage cheese, or low-fat ricotta. Sweet potatoes are healthy and antioxidant-rich, and that small amount of protein in the topping will keep your blood sugar from spiking and crashing.
Or try this spa-tacular recipe: Thinly slice a large cucumber without the skin, and combine with apple-cider vinegar, salt, pepper, lemon, dill, and just a sprinkle of sugar or sweetener.
I also buy frozen packages of butternut squash, with approximately 140 calories per serving. (If you can't find it frozen, it's easy enough to whip up a puree at home, then portion it into individual containers for grab-and-go snacks throughout the week.) Microwave them and season with salt and pepper, and a splash of soy milk. It's delicious as is, or you can make it savory with spices, or sweet with cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup.
These are just a few healthy snack options; you can read about more here. All these treats may take a little more effort than sticking a few coins in the vending machine, but once you try them, you won't ever want to go back. The only thing you have to worry about now is saving room for dinner!