A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Seven Stupendous Snack Food Swaps

We, as consumers, love snacking, plain and simple. There are a multitude of snack options that are both healthy and unhealthy. The big companies in the food industry depend on our desire to snack in order to make a lot of their profits. With the wide media coverage on what’s “healthy”, major food companies are quick to exploit the newest and most popular trends with big, bold health claims printed on their packages.

For instance, many highly processed foods now spout “Great Source of Fiber” even though there are no whole grains or other foods with fiber. A good example is the Fiber One 90 Calorie Brownies (pictured below) claiming one brownie is 20% of your daily fiber needs. Chicory root is the second ingredient and the source of fiber for these brownies; this type of fiber is known as functional fiber because it is added in the mix. Since fiber is a key term that consumers want to have, it is now added to a wide variety of bars, cereals, bread, and even foods which naturally provide no fiber, such as yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, juice, and chocolate bars. This “functional” fiber isn’t all bad and probably ok to make it part of your fiber intake, but we should obtain most of our fiber from natural sources like whole grains, fruits, and veggies. These whole foods have an extensive amount of other nutrients like vitamins and minerals our bodies need for optimal health.

With that said, lets take a look at seven swaps to replace the packaged snack foods like Fiber One bars with real, whole foods that have more to offer than just fiber. Use these swaps to replace the typical fried potato chips, cookies, snack bars, frozen treats, and other sugary, salty, fatty, and processed foods.

1. Carrots

I prefer to buy them whole and peel then cut to desired size, but will opt for the bagged baby carrots when necessary. Carrots satisfy the need for something crunchy and are great for dipping in mustard, peanut butter, cottage cheese, or yogurt.

2. Plain, Non-Fat Greek/Regular Yogurt

For those used to a lot of sugar, it might be hard to make the change, but you eventually get used to and enjoy the plain flavor. I know because I’m a convert myself; make a healthier sweet treat by adding honey or agave, fresh or frozen fruit, and vanilla extract to the plain yogurt. My favorite way to enjoy is with sliced bananas, natural peanut butter, and a drizzle of honey; add dry-roasted nuts for a great crunch.

3. Apples

I mentioned in a previous post how I like cutting apples into small cubes to use as a healthy “cereal” option; apples are also great just sliced and paired with low fat cheese or natural peanut butter. One of my favorites is having apple slices with low-fat cheddar and peanut butter together; the flavor is outstanding!

4. Homemade Sweet Potato Sticks/Chips

You’ll never turn back to French fries with baked sweet potato chips or sticks. Simply cut sweet potatoes into a fry or chip shape, toss with a light coating of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes. This would be good with regular potatoes too, they are both healthy options when little oil is used; it’s the “frying” that makes anything unhealthy.

5. Grape Tomatoes

No need for refrigeration makes for a great snack food to keep at work when the cravings hit. Buy a nice pint-sized container, rinse and leave in a drawer at work. These are a prep-free way to be healthy and snack at the same time; add in a serving of part-skim mozzarella for healthy protein.

6. Low-Fat Cheese

Buy a block of low-fat cheese like part-skim mozzarella and cut it into 1 inch cubes to place several in a separate baggie. Store the baggies in the fridge at home or work for a quick grab and go snack to keep the bag of chips at bay. Cheese sticks are another great option, but buying a block and cutting your own “sticks” will save some cash.

7. Hummus

The traditional hummus is made with garbanzo beans (chickpeas), tahini, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Hummus is an awesome swap over typical sour cream based dips; use celery, carrot sticks, raw mushrooms, baked whole grain pita bread, or brown rice cakes for a tasty combination. You can make hummus with any bean either white or red with great success. I tend to use less oil than is usually called for since you get plenty of healthy fat from the tahini. Red pepper and cayenne (duh) are my favorite add-ins for hummus. Click here to read more about hummus and other dips from a previous post.

These choices are in no way the only available options, I just chose “seven” because it made for a good title for words starting with “s.” As I have said before and will say many times in the future, stick to foods out of the package and away from those with giant-lettered health claims on the.  Hope you enjoyed the post, happy eating!

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