Delicious, easy-to-prepare, healthy, inexpensive snacks: Can all those words really be in one sentence? Yes! Read on to find four simple snacks that will pack in the nutrition without adding a lot of empty calories.
The Healthy Snack Test:
1: Are you actually hungry? Would you eat an apple or a banana? If the answer is no, you’re not actually hungry. We often eat out of habit without realizing that we are not actually hungry. Try skipping a meal sometime – that’s what hungry feels like.
2: Is the snack you are about to munch on helping your body? If it is heavily processed, won’t expire anytime soon, and has ingredients you can’t pronounce, that snack is not doing you any favors.
3: Is the snack full of empty calories? Look carefully at the label and notice sugar and fat content. Or forget the labels all together by eating whole foods, like fresh fruits, veggies, and unsalted nuts.
1. Edamame: A Low-fat Simple Snack
Ever since news came out about edamame’s low-fat, low-cholesterol, and high-protein characteristics, this tasty soybean snack is growing in popularity in the West. Edamame is high in essential fatty acids, dietary fiber, as well as numerous minerals and vitamins, especially folic acid, manganese and vitamin K. Buy fresh at the market and steam or add frozen soybean pods to slightly salted water and boil for 7 to 10 minutes. Prepare ahead of time and refrigerate. Of course, edamame should be avoided by anyone who is allergic to soy.
2. Go Nuts for a Brain-boosting Trail Mix
For a burst of youthful energy, eat a daily handful of nuts and seeds. Enticing choices include almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, peanuts, and pistachios. Nuts and seeds are filled with arginine, an amino acid that helps fight heart disease, impotence, infertility and high blood pressure. Arginine also stimulates the pituitary gland at the base of the brain to produce growth hormones, a substance that begins to decline after age 35; more growth hormones means better muscle tone, improved skin elasticity, increased cognitive function, and other anti-aging benefits. This crunchy snack will satisfy your hunger and keep you from reaching for salty, fatty chips.
3. Garbanzo Beans: Spread on the Fiber Benefits
A spread of garbanzo beans – also known as hummus – on whole-grain bread or baby carrots is a delicious light snack that will give you energy while stabilizing your blood sugar level. Garbanzos, or chickpeas, are a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. In addition, garbanzos’ high-fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance, or hypoglycemia. One more thing to consider: Getting full on fiber will benefit your health, while keeping the temptation of fatty snacks at bay. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is said that garbanzos help with some inflammatory skin conditions, like psoriasis and eczema. Pick up some hummus at the store or try making your own!
4. Say Yes to Yogurt
For a thicker, creamier texture, choose low-fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt. Loaded with protein, calcium and natural probiotics, it makes for a tasty snack any time. Enjoy it with fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds – or blend it into smoothies.