We can all relate to being in a pinch, on the edge of “hangry” and grabbing a quick snack at the grocery store checkout. Before you reach for another candy bar or energy drink, here are some guidelines on how to choose healthy snacks instead.
The Problem with Sugary Snacks
Packaged food from the vending machine and 2pm mochas with extra whipped cream are doing more harm than good. The problem with sugary, unhealthy snacks is that they put your body on a blood sugar rollercoaster.
Within the first hour after eating the snack, you’ll typically feel great — maybe even a sense of euphoria. The sugar hits your bloodstream and your brain releases dopamine, signaling a powerful feeling of happiness.
Within the second and third hour, though, your body is sent into a state of emergency. Blood sugar levels will start to crash and you may find yourself feeling extra tired or irritable during this period.
This cycle leaves you feeling crummy and constantly on the search for another sugary snack to give your body the dopamine hit it craves. It has some dangerous long-term effects too.
According to research from Harvard University, foods with a high glycemic index such as white bread can cause substantial fluctuations in blood sugar. Eating many high-glycemic index foods “can lead to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and…there is also preliminary work linking high-glycemic diets to age-related macular degeneration, ovulatory infertility, and colorectal cancer.”
Rather than rely on processed junk food to fuel your body…
Rather than rely on processed junk food to fuel your body, have healthy snacks on hand to boost your energy throughout the day. Healthy snacks from real food will sustain long-term energy levels, boost your performance in the gym, and help you reach your lifestyle goals.
If you’re hungry and in need of a snack to power you through a workout or the next couple of hours in your day, there are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind.
- Stay away from added sugars. Processed sugar sources such as corn syrup and white sugar (found in sodas, sugary coffee drinks and just about anything found in a vending machine) will spike your blood sugar and leave you with an energy crash within an hour or two. Opt for naturally sweetened foods, such as fruit or sugars from maple syrup or honey, instead.
- Look for healthy fats. Healthy fats from natural sources such as coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, and avocados will provide your body with vital nutrients and maintain long-term energy. Aside from being an energy source, fats ensure proper nerve and brain function, transport nutrients throughout the body and maintain healthy skin and other tissues.
- Include protein, especially if it’s post-workout. Protein is the building block of our muscles, so adequate intake, particularly after a tough workout will help with faster recovery and overall health. Rather than rely on protein bars, though, consider including a high-quality source of protein such as pastured eggs, grass-fed meat, or organic nut butter.
- Opt for real food sources instead. When given the choice between anything that comes in a package and a real food option such as fruit, vegetables or eggs, always opt for the real food. This is going to provide you with the maximum amount of nutrients and in general, a healthier source of carbs, protein, and fat than anything from a box.
With those guidelines in mind, here are 10 healthy snacks:
- Hard boiled eggs: A large hard-boiled egg has up to six grams of protein and provides all of the essential amino acids. Researchers now know that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels (not cholesterol in food, as previously believed), making hard-boiled eggs an excellent healthy snack option to include in your diet. As an added bonus, they are one of the few foods that contain vitamin D, an essential nutrient that promotes calcium absorption.
- Grass-fed beef jerky: As grass-fed meat becomes more mainstream, healthy beef jerky options continue to pop up online and in stores everywhere. Double check the label for added sugars or soy, which many companies will use for flavoring. Eat This Not That offers a thorough guide to selecting the best beef jerky.
- Almond butter: An excellent source of fiber and healthy fats, almond butter is an easy healthy snack when you’re busy. Available in large quantities or individually portioned packages, almond butter is an energy dense source of nutrients.
- Berries: Compared to other fruits, berries are best known for their antioxidant properties that may promote healthy memory function. They are also a great source of fiber and low in sugar, which will help keep your blood sugar stable after eating a handful or two.
- Kale chips: Whether you make your own or purchase them at the store, kale chips offer the many benefits of kale with an added salty crunch, sure to satisfy any snack craving. Filled with powerful antioxidants and vitamins K, A and C, kale is an excellent healthy snack option.
- Green juice: Juicing for health offers many benefits such as easy nutrients and the extraction of fiber. When selecting a green juice for a healthy snack, double check the label to ensure that it’s low in sugar and made up of mostly vegetables, such as leafy greens, cucumbers, and celery, for the maximum benefit.
- Coconut butter: Packed with healthy fats, coconut butter is a creamier version of coconut oil that tastes great on its own or paired with fruits and veggies. The healthy fats in coconut oil will keep you satiated for a long time, making it a great healthy snack option when traveling or during a long period in between meals.
- Energy bites: An easy snack to make at home, energy bites or power balls are often packed with healthy fats from raw nuts or nut butters, shredded coconut and dried fruit. Add your favorite protein powder for an extra protein boost.
- Avocado: Serve a fresh avocado with a squeeze of lime juice, a pinch of sea salt and a bit of hot sauce to your liking for a satisfying snack. Loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados are an excellent part of a healthy diet.
- Sweet potatoes: Add a bit of ghee or grass-fed butter and crunchy sea salt for a healthy source of carbohydrates and fat that will power your workout or whatever comes your way. Looking for something a little easier to transport? Opt for Jackson’s Honest sweet potato chips instead. Made with coconut oil and free of junky additives, they make for an easy and delicious snack on the go.