In these stressful days of uncertainty and upheaval in our day-to-day lives, many of us may be reaching for snacks as a way to feel better.
"This is a really difficult time for most of us," says Elisabeth Moore, RD, a dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "Many of us are at home and our regular activities and routines have been turned upside down. It's much harder to stick to a healthy diet under these circumstances, so when it comes to our eating habits, I tell people to do the best they can do."
She offers the following advice to help us make healthy snack choices during these trying times.
Try to Avoid Temptation
To help avoid sweet and salty temptations, Moore reminds us to:
- Try not to keep processed food snacks in the house
- Try not to hang around in the kitchen
- Do a hunger check before reaching for a snack
"Before you open a bag of chips or a box of cookies, pause and think about whether you're actually hungry," says Moore. As we all know, a growling or empty stomach, low energy or headache are signs of true hunger. If you're craving snacks without any of these physical signs, you may be looking for comfort or distraction. If that's the case, try another self-soothing activity such as
- Take a walk
- Call a friend
- Try meditation
- Prepare a healthy recipe (see recipes below)
Switch to Healthy Snacks
Healthy snacks can not only prevent stress eating but can also be an important component of overall heart health. "Snacks help bridge the gap between meals," says Moore. "A small snack mid-morning or mid-afternoon curbs your appetite so you're not completely starving when you sit down to lunch or dinner. This in turn can help you curb portion sizes and avoid overeating."
Keep in mind that many so-called "healthy" snack choices in the supermarket can be deceptive. While it's obvious that salty, greasy potato chips are unhealthy, you might not realize that low-fat, low-salt potato chips are not a good alternative. "Even though these snacks contain less fat and less salt than regular chips, they are still just low-fiber carbohydrates that are unlikely to satisfy your hunger," says Moore. In fact, these choices are likely to raise your blood sugar, often leaving you hungrier.
To satisfy hunger, try to choose whole foods rather than processed "snack" foods. Heart-healthy snack choices are
- High in fiber
- Low in salt
- Low in saturated fats and cholesterol
Examples of healthy snack options include:
- Fruit with nut butter (peanut butter or almond butter on apple pieces or banana slices)
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts or any other type of low-salt or no-salt nuts)
- Homemade trail mix (see recipe below)
- Cut-up vegetables (baby carrots, broccoli florets or cherry tomatoes) with hummus
- Cheese and crackers
- Roasted chickpeas snack (see recipe below)
- Homemade popcorn (avoid microwave popcorn or prepackaged snacking popcorn, both of which contain excess salt and fats)
Keep portions in mind. "It might initially help to purchase pre-portioned snacks, for example, small bags of nuts instead of a single large container," says Moore.
"Remember, balance is the key," she adds. "Food is comforting and we all need comfort right now." Give yourself permission for some indulgences, but keep in mind that healthy snacks are always good for your heart and good for your overall health - especially during these trying times.
This inexpensive snack is rich in fiber and protein, and is easy for kids and families to make together.
- One 15-ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- Olive oil
- Your favorite spice, such as garlic powder, basil, rosemary, oregano, chili powder, or curry powder
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Drain the chickpeas in a colander or strainer and rinse under running water
- Spread the chickpeas on a large baking sheet
- Drizzle with about one tablespoon of olive oil and stir to coat evenly
- Sprinkle with your choice of spices
- Roast for 15 to 30 minutes, to desired crispness
- Let cool and store at room temperature in a resealable bag or container
Sweet and Savory Trail Mix
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 1/2 cup dried blueberries
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- 20 small pretzel twists
Combine all ingredients in a dish. Serve as a snack or a sweet after-meal treat.
Total calories 145; total fat 8 g; saturated fat 0.5g; cholesterol 0 g; sodium 25 mg; total carbohydrate 14g;p dietary fiber 3g; sugars 9g; protein 4g.
Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.