Snack Hacks That Work

Snacks seem to confuse and elude us. One of the most popular questions I get is, “What do I eat for snack?” We seem to have these unwritten rules about snacks, and most of them just don’t serve us.

Snacks are small meals, or maybe even the same size portion as your meal. (They can even be a leftover from your meal…more on that later!) There is no specific type of food that denotes a snack – unless you are in the food manufacturing industry. The goal of a snack is to nourish your body with vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients needed for good health throughout the day, to help increase absorption, stabilize blood sugars and decrease the chance of becoming too hungry overeating or making an unnecessary choice at days end.

I will agree that snacks may require some thought for children at school, shuttling from school to sport, anyone on the go, air travel, lack of refrigeration, or anyone accustomed to grabbing something in a package or box to eat in between meals. Sure, there are some times when a self contained snack in a bag is ideal, but that should really be the exception, not the norm, and for THAT, we can have some rules.

HEALTHY, ACCESSIBLE SNACKS include:

  • Bell Pepper sliced into sticks – red, green and yellow
  • Sliced Cucumber, or cucumber salad
  • Piece of fruit like an apple, orange or grapefruit -there are many varietals for experiment!
  • Sliced apple or pear with nut butter
  • Chopped apple with cinnamon
  • Nut and berry “cereal”
  • Trail mix -pre-measured amount to avoid overeating
  • Leftover portion from breakfast, lunch or dinner
  • Sliced hard boiled egg, chicken salad, sweet potato fries (leftover from meals…)
  • Almond milk smoothie with nut butter, cocoa and more…

If you are a growing teenager, or someone who needs a larger snack, choose two from the above list.

NOT THE GO TO, BUT THE WILL DO:

I recently ran into Trader Joe’s to scope out some packaged snacks. I find that while not always ideal, Trader Joe’s has some better options available.

Coconut Crispy Rolls wafer cookies – A small and tasty tube cookie, the ingredients are simple, and seemingly preserved with sugar and salt. The remaining ingredients are coconut milk, tapioca starch, eggs and sesame seeds. There are some health claims to the ingredients (but don’t consider this a health food – still a cookie) B+ (points deducted for minimal processing)

Trader Joe’s Seaweed Snacks

These are, interestingly enough, a fan favorite at my house, and pack and travel well. The ingredients are sea salt and seaweed. Not knowing much about the source of the seaweed, I’ll go with it’s fine until I read otherwise 🙂 Seaweed snacks get an A.

These are, interestingly enough, a fan favorite at my house, and pack and travel well. The ingredients are sea salt and seaweed. Not knowing much about the source of the seaweed, I’ll go with it’s fine until I read otherwise 🙂 Seaweed snacks get an

TJ’s Seasoned Kale Chips

These tasted ok to me, but the kids thought these lacked flavor. Slightly processed and some sugars lands this snack on the go in the B range.

TJ’s Blueberry Almond Peanut Date & Nut Bites

These mini bites were a big hit for taste and the ingredient list consists of ground nuts, seeds, fruits. Minimally processed, but wholesome ingredients earn this an A.

TJ’s Crispy Crunchy Broccoli Florets

Puffed broccoli, rice bran oil and salt combine to make this snack an interesting choice. The broccoli flavor is absolutely present and very strange in dried form. Once ou are over that, this tastes pretty good. Still reviewing rice bran oil, so until further notice this snacks gets a B+ for minimal processing and the unknown possibilities of rice bran oil.

TJ’s Savory Banana & Nuts Trek Mix

The indgredients are pretty solid here, and do not include any major preservatives. Apple cider vinegar and sea salt likely keep this shelf stable. The taste is fine, but we all decided that creating our own banana and chip mix was more flavorful. This is a reasonable choice that comes in at A-, points off for minimal processing.

Hu Chocolates

Not at Trader Joe’s, but worthy of a mention, the Hu choclates are well sourced, vegan non dairy dark chocolates. I’ve had a few different, and my favorite remains Cashew Butter with Vanilla Bean and Dark Chocolate. I love them not only for their tag line of “IT’S TIME TO GET BACK TO THE WAY HUMAN’S ATE BEFORE INDUSTRY RUINED THE FOOD”, but also their practices. The products are made with organic ingredients wherever possible, fair trade chocolate, and do NOT include refined sugars, dairy, soy lecithin, palm oil, cane sugar, sugar alcohols, vanilla extract or emulsifiers. Wow! But, what does it taste like?? I haven’t eaten them all, but I can vouch for the cashew butter! This is a chocolate and not a healthy snack , but considering the category A- (points deducted as there is no way a dairy free chocolate can measure against say a European handcrafted chocolate!)

Remember that wholesome foods are always the best choices, but in a pinch, you can still make better choices than your average processed snack!

Happy snacking!

Is Cereal a Healthy Breakfast?

The evolution of cereal is fascinating. There is an entire aisle in a 10 aisle supermarket dedicated to nothing but cereal. People refer to “my” cereal like my mom watched “her” show. Cereal is personal, and Kellogg, the inventor of the mother cereal, the cornflake, had some interesting ideas about why we all needed to eat cereal.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was the Director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan opening in 1866, welcoming guests from all walks of life, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Amelia Earhart, who may have been looking for a “health tune-up”. The San, as it was called, offered holistic spa treatments from medical doctors to mineral baths. Kellogg, a Seventh Day Adventist, promoted well-being through a multi-faceted approach that involved nutrition, digestion, exercise, cleanliness, bath soaks, surgical interventions, electrotherapeutics, massage therapists, bakers, waiters, mental well being and a host of other practices and guidelines to help people become healthier versions of themselves. Many beliefs of The Seventh Day Adventists became part of his practice including nutrition, spirituality, mental hygiene, community and social interaction and physical movement. One of the inventions of Kellogg was, indeed, the cornflake in 1894, designed to provide maximum nutrients in the blandest form possible for his patients at The San. Kellogg thought the consumption of bland food would decrease masturbation, which he thoroughly frowned upon. Kellogg referred to his lifestyle as biological living, insisting on daily exercise, plenty of fresh air and complete abstinence from sex, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. I’m not certain how he would have mankind stay in business to consume his cornflakes, but seemingly, enough people only followed some of what he recommended.

Kellogg, a vegetarian, consumed many grains and found himself creating the cornflake which is a pretty famous breakfast food found in most all westernized civilizations. He encouraged everyone to chew each bite of food 40 times. (I’m not sure how to pull that off with cornflakes, but i see where he was going. ) Kellogg had lots of great ideas, and others that were a bit extreme, but I think he had the right philosophy to combine many aspects of health to lessen disease.

Unfortunately, I think his cornflake idea has morphed into what he would have seen as debauchery. Comparing The San with todays environment, we have The San with live music, educational health lectures, enough baths to put the Roman Empire to shame, outdoor trails for walking and meditating, sporting fields, bakers, cooks, and a medical staff and today’s health practices where getting a doctors appointment can be dictated by insurance coverage, foods are highly processed and contain many unnatural preservatives and little nutrients, many of us sit and drive for the better part of our day and get very little exercise or exercise is forced (a gym treadmill versus walking to the store), and misinformation and sound bytes regarding health and fitness. Is the cornflake to blame for all of our healthcare woes? Definitely not, but in my opinion, the cornflake was one of the inventions from Kellogg would could have done without.

Why I’m Against the Cornflake…

Kelloggs Cornflakes Ingredients:

Ingredients: Corn (88%), sugar, salt, barley malt extract, vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, folate), minerals (iron, zinc oxide).

2g protein, 24 g carbs per 1 cup serving, and not much else. The vitamins are fortified – added back in, as they were stripped out in the manufacturing process.

The corn of today is definitely not the corn of 1888. I stay clear of corn whenever possible because of the increased potential of genetic modification and Round Up pesticide in the crops, intentionally or unintentionally. Corn, without modifications, contains omega 6 fatty acids, and that makes it an inflammatory food. And, highly processed forms of corn (which are everywhere) break down very rapidly in the gut, spiking blood sugars, wreaking havoc on persons who have diabetes or other blood sugar control issues. Lastly, we should get fiber from vegetable and fruits, not from refined grains.

Most other cereals are in the same boat with the cornflake, offering little nutrition with a lot of simple carbohydrates that spike blood sugars and typically are stored as fat, even the ones that label themselves as healthy. Poor Kellogg, giving him the benefit of the doubt, was beyond well-intentioned, but could not imagine the future offspring of the cornflake. The other products available from Kellogg’s today now include Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes (chocolate or with marshmallows , Frosted Mini Wheats, Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, Special K, Cereal Bars, Pop Tarts and more. None of these are good for you. None. In fact, quite the opposite. The chart below compares the main Kellogg products and a few other seemingly healthy cereal products. Most cereals, including the ones that tell you they are good for you are not the healthiest choices. Review the carbohydrates, sugars and fiber per serving as well as the ingredient list. If you must still choose cereal, avoid BHT, BTA, TBQH and choose cereals preserved with tocopherol (fancy name for vitamin E) The US allows food manufacturers to use these petroleum based and more harmful preservatives, and interestingly, Europe does not. Food manufactures have different recipes for exports to the EU. This is disgusting policy, in my opinion, and should be added to my list of why we should not eat processed cereals.

CerealProteinCarbsFatSugarFiber
Kelloggs
Frosted Flakes126010.5
Froot Loops2260.5103
Frosted mini Wheats (10 biscuits)7621158
Raisin Bran5471177
Rice Krispies229040
Special K7290.550.5
Cereal Bar – Blueberry2243123
Pop Tart2354.515.5
Other Manufacturers
Cheerios – General Mills320223
Puffins – Cinn – Barbara’s Bakery226115.5
Bob’s Red Mill Muesli423334

So, for obvious reason, I am against the cornflake, but taking one or two things from Kellogg, I invented my own cereal. I share most of his beliefs, but bland food treatment is one I definitely don’t wrap my head around – on several levels. This flavorful, nutrient dense cereal provides 11 g protein, 16 g carbs, 27g total fat 16 of which are omega 3’s, and 5 g fiber without any grain and hopefully no harmful ingredients (depending on the source of your berries and other ingredients). The total calories for this meal is 332 and chock full of antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber, healthy fats and lots of flavor!

Nut and Berry Cereal

1/3 cup Walnuts, crushed

1T Flax Seed, ground

1T Hemp Seed

1 tsp coconut, shredded

1/3 cup blueberries

4 strawberries

4 oz Almond Milk