We like to snack. Snack sales constituted 40% of the $370 billion packaged food market in the U.S. in 2014, according to Euromonitor International. What we eat when we snack can make a difference in our health.
For example, waiting for hours between meals can wreak havoc on energy and blood sugar levels. Healthy between-meal snacks can help power you through a busy afternoon.
But don’t confuse snacks with unhealthy treats. Snacks are powerful combinations of whole foods, such as:
- Banana with peanut butter
- Carrots and hummus
- Plain Greek yogurt with strawberries
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers
- Oat, nut and fruit granola bars (see recipe).
Unhealthy treats — including pastries, candy and chips — are high in fat, sugar or salt, but provide no nutrients to nourish or replenish the body. Eat them in small portions, as an occasional post-meal dessert.
Use these 5 suggestions to ensure healthy snack habits:
- INCLUDE PROTEIN: Nuts, seeds, eggs, yogurt, cheese and beans are excellent snack ingredients for keeping you feeling full and satisfied.
- ADD VEGETABLES OR FRUIT: Since most of us fall short on daily needs, adding fruits and vegetables to snack time helps you get much-needed daily servings.
- DON’T RELY ON SUGAR: Candy provides a quick jolt of energy and a subsequent crash, leaving you craving more sugar.
- CONTROL PORTIONS: Snacks should provide about 200 calories. Measure individual servings instead of eating mindlessly out of a large box or bag of food.
KEEP IT HANDY: Stash healthy, portable snacks nearby to reduce your cravings for treats.
PEANUT POWER BARS
- 1½ cups rolled oats
- ¾ cup dates, pitted
- 1 cup roasted peanuts, loosely chopped
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp honey
- ½ cup peanut butter, smooth
- *** I also like to experiment with chocolate chips and other fruits such as raisins, cranberries, etc into the mix during the mixing portion of the recipe
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Add oats to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 7-10 minutes, stirring once, until toasted and slightly brown. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. In a food processor, blend dates for about 1 minute for a dough-like consistency. In a large bowl, combine toasted oats, dates, peanuts and sunflower seeds. In a small pan, warm honey and peanut butter over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until runny. Pour peanut butter over mixture and stir to combine. Transfer to a parchment-lined 8″ x 8″ baking dish, and pack firmly into the bottom of the dish. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Cut into 12 bars. Store in a sealed container at room temperature or freeze to preserve freshness.