The quick answer: For nutritious and non-addictive snacks, try real food.
Snacks by Food Inc.
Americans are eating fewer traditional meals and snacking more—a great business opportunity for Food Inc. Take a look at two popular offerings, a “cookie-cake” by Nabisco, and a cereal bar by Kellogg's:
Starting with Nabisco, their Snackwell’s Devil’s Food contains 23 ingredients beginning with sugar, enriched (was a term ever more misused?) flour, corn syrup, HFCS, and ending with artificial flavors. A 16-gram serving contains 7 grams of sugar (over half the calories) and zero fiber. So much for the fiber>sugar rule. Introduced in the ‘90s during the misguided war on fat, they’re fat free. Devil’s Food is a pretty good description.
Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain contains 50 ingredients between the crust and the filling. The sugar, over 1/3 of calories, comes in five forms: sugar, dextrose, fructose, invert sugar, and corn syrup. A 37-gram serving contains 11 grams of sugar and 3 grams of fiber—this fails the fiber>sugar rule also. Though a highly processed food-like product, two of the first three ingredients are whole grains—so it’s not all bad.
Snackwell cookies and Kellogg’s cereal bars are popular snack products. Do they meet the criteria of Word of Wisdom Living? You be the judge. I would rather eat a homemade bran muffin—depicted below with a rose to suggest naturalness. (Recipe to follow.)
Two Healthy Changes
Two of our Healthy Changes address snacks. In The Joy of Snacking, we said: Enjoy a healthy mix of snacks by making a daily snack plate. The genius behind the snack plate (which can also be a brown bag) is premeditation—you organize it when you’re not so glucose deprived you only want candy. We also suggested some healthy snacks and readers added these to the list:
- Sunflower seeds or popcorn,
- Applesauce (try Skip’s Homemade Applesauce),
- Berries with Greek yogurt,
- Ants on a Log (celery, PB, raisins),
- Mix of almonds, dried cherries (super high in antioxidants), and dark chocolate chips.
But in the coming and going of summer, you can get out of the snack plate habit. We did. That’s not necessarily bad—this summer we ate a lot of fruit. But summer’s over, autumn has started, and it’s time improve our snacking.
There is place in a healthy diet for snacks but the percent of our calories that come from snacks can get out of hand. Here are three wholesome ways to control between meal craving:
- A healthy breakfast reduces snacking. Research shows the snacking impulse begins with breakfast. Dr. David Ludwig, Harvard researcher and author, found in a study that people eating a healthy, low-G.I. breakfast indulged in 81% less snacking during the day.
- Exercise reduces snacking. A study found that workers who took a brisk 15-minute walk before work ate half as many chocolate snacks (from a tray left on their desk) as workers who didn’t exercise.
- Adequate sleep reduces snacking. Sleep stabilizes the daily dance of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and leptin (the fullness hormone) that, if out of order, can cause runaway snacking.
Healthy Change #43
The best snacks are made from real food and mostly come from the home rather than a factory. There are a few exceptions: If you like celery, you can improve it with store-bought PB or hummus. In fact, if you want to meet the USDA goal of 4-5 daily vegetable servings, you need to include a veggie or two in your snacks. Ditto for fruit.
Likewise, chocolate chips (I don’t know anyone who makes these at home) go well with dried fruit and nuts. And yogurt, which most people prefer to buy rather than make, is a treat when added to berries, or granola. Yogurt also helps to thicken smoothies.
So acknowledging these exceptions, we offer Healthy Change #43 for more wholesome snacking:
Enjoy a healthy mix of homemade snacks.
There’s a wise old maxim about an apple-a-day, but adding an orange and a banana is even healthier. Ditto for veggies like celery (noted above), carrots, etc. Seeds and nuts make good snacks too, as do leftovers. My favorite snack is toasted homemade bread. The beautiful wife likes Greek yogurt. These snacks aren’t completely homemade.
But, though PB, hummus, yogurt, butter, and most nuts are factory products, they’re minimally processed. They have few ingredients, you can pronounce the names of the ingredients, there’s nothing artificial, and they are little changed from their original form. Eat food as close as practical to the natural form.
Homemade muffins are a favorite autumn and winter snack. You can make a couple dozen and put them in the freezer for use during the week. In our next post we’ll share a muffin recipe or two.
Please comment: Share you favorite autumn and winter snacks. Got a recipe to share?