Sweets and snacks tend to get a bad rap, but experts say a healthy diet includes several small meals eaten throughout the day. So what's okay to snack on, and what's not?
The truth is that a healthy eating plan includes quality, wholesome snacks consumed in moderation. Essentially, that means eating healthy, minimally processed foods when you're hungry and stopping when you're satisfied.
So how can you make sure the snacks you're eating are part of a balanced diet? Start by stocking up on healthy snacks in the 100 to 200-calorie range. You should focus on whole, unpackaged foods like apples, grapes, carrot sticks and eggs, but if you do choose any packaged snacks, read the nutrition label to make sure they're low on added sugars and offer nutrients like fiber or calcium. Some great options include whole-grain crackers, dark chocolate, nuts or dried fruit.
If you have a sweet tooth, take advantage of natural sweets, like fruit. Fruit is nutritious, delicious and loved by kids and adults alike, so replace your usual sugary dessert with fruits like apples, bananas, berries, peaches or whatever else is in season. Fruit is even great frozen, especially during the hot summer months. Pop some fruit in the freezer or buy it frozen to create healthy smoothies and sorbets.
Make sure to limit the variety of sweets you keep in your pantry, since studies show that the more variety you keep on hand, the more you'll want to eat. Some other ways to keep a sweet tooth under control include prepping single-serving portions of your favorite snacks and keeping tempting high-calorie treats, like candy bars, out of the house altogether.
Other healthy snacks you can substitute for junk food include:
- Greek yogurt with fruit and/or granola
- A square of dark chocolate
- Stovetop popcorn seasoned with dried herbs and spices
- Reduced-fat cheese on whole-grain crackers
- Raw vegetables with a light dip, like hummus or yogurt dip
- A piece of whole-grain toast topped with mashed avocado
- Hard-boiled eggs with paprika or black pepper
To learn more about healthy approaches to living and eating, consult one of the registered dietitians with Goshen Health Nutrition Therapy.