Most of the processed snacks on the market were created to make eating more convenient — solving every mama’s biggest pain point, am I right? Believe me, I understand the dire need moms have to save time and make their lives a little bit easier, but I also think there are plenty of healthy AND convenient snacks we can feed ourselves and our families without the expense of our health.
It’s important to realize that while convenience in food is our goal, it is also our food producer’s goal too. Just like we are trying to find ways to make food faster and pay less for it, the food industry is also trying to find ways to make food faster for cheaper. Because of this, the quality of our food (and our health) has drastically decreased over the years.
But don’t worry, I’m here to offer you some solutions to make your snacking healthier! Some of these options may take an extra step or an extra few minutes to prepare for you or your kiddos, so I understand they may not be ideal for every occasion or schedule, but I encourage all mamas to slow down a little and see what is possible to change right now. Start with just one new snack before doing an overhaul of all the packaged goodies. One by one, replace the processed snacks you currently have in your pantry, with whole foods that are nutrient dense.
What does “whole food option” or “nutrient dense” mean?
A processed snack is considered something that has gone through lots of processing before it got to the shelf. This processing usually includes alterations to ingredients that chemically modified them, using artificial foods, colors, or flavors to mimic natural products/ingredients, and adding lots of preservatives. Overtime these processed foods can really damage our bodies which are not created to digest or use these chemicals. Rather, our bodies need macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and natural products that come from the earth or animals (if they have been farmed correctly). When I grocery shop, I like to ask myself, “Is this created by God, or man-made?” That doesn’t mean I don’t buy some packaged products, and take advantage of convenience items, but this question has helped me make better (not perfect) buying choices with my food.
Nutrient dense means that the food/product is high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. For example when choosing between tortilla chips, I like to buy the MultiGrian chips from Costco instead of the Mission chips because the MultiGrain chips include seeds and other oils that provide monounsaturated fats (healthy fats) into my diet, whereas the Mission chips only contain saturated fats.
Here are my top 10 go-to whole food and nutrient dense snacks:
- Fruits and Vegetables: we all need WAY more of these in our diet daily. (My favorite vegetables to snack on with some hummus, or other dressing/dip: snap peas, cucumber, carrots, celery, bell peppers)
- Organic Rice Cakes with cheese, tomato, and lunch meat (best if meat is organic, low sodium, no hormones added, no-GMO, anti-biotic free, and grass fed).
- 100% Whole Wheat Organic Toast (my favorite brand is Dave’s Killer Bread) with jam or peanut butter (instead of a NutriGrain Bar). Brands I recommend for jam: Smucker’s Natural Strawberry Jam, or an organic brand. Brands I recommend for peanut butter: Adam’s Peanut Butter, Creamy Signature Organic Peanut Butter, PB Fit Powder, or Organic Almond Butter.
- Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Peanuts, Pecans, Hazelnuts, and Pistachios)
- Hard boiled eggs
- Salsa mixed with avocado and eaten with MultiGrain tortilla chips
- Plain Greek Yogurt mixed with cinnamon, berries (frozen or fresh), or banana, and Pumpkin Flaxseed Granola. (Sometimes I add lemon or lime juice as well for extra flavor, chia seeds to add healthy fats, or flaxseed mill for more nutrients.) *Fruit flavored yogurts often contain a lot of added sugars, and are lower in protein. Plain yogurts are much more nutrient dense, but the flavor is pretty bland.
- String Cheese (I recommend organic animal products, but if you buy conventional, compare the ingredients list on a few brands to pick the one with the least amount of ingredients, and one that contains ingredients you know.)
- Skinny Pop, Pop Zero, or homemade pop corn
Which snack option are you going to try first!?