snacks

We talk a lot about meal planning here on the blog, but snacks are also an important part of a healthy diet. Snacks are a huge part of keeping you from getting too hungry between meals, which we all know can lead to some not-so-healthy food choices. Adding snacks to your diet can also help you avoid the afternoon slump at work, fuel/recover properly around a workout, and better control your blood sugar.

veggies + hummus[source]

What makes a good snack? Most of what are advertised as snack foods are more of what I would consider occasional treats: chips, “snack” cakes, frozen appetizers, cookies…you get the idea. These foods provide lots of calories and few nutrients. Not to mention they leave you feeling hungry and craving more sugar, fat, and/or salt.

The size of your snack will depend on you individual goals and calorie needs, as well as the amount of time until your next meal. For the average person, 200-300 calories is just about the perfect size for your snack, assuming you consume reasonably sized meals. A highly competitive athlete or someone with a very active job will obviously require larger snacks and will need to snack more often than a less active individual.

If not “traditional” snack foods, then what kinds of foods make a good snack? Try to aim for a combination of carbohydrates/fiber with protein/healthy fats. Carbohydrates provide energy and fiber/protein/healthy fats help keep you full longer.

Below is a handy chart I made that might help you put together some healthy snacks. You’ll find things that you can pack at home to bring wherever you go, as well as things that can easily be found in vending machines or convenience stores if you need to make a healthy choice on-the-go. For those who have been following some of the posts on protein, I’ve included the grams of protein for each item in the protein column to help you keep tabs on your protein intake.

ScreenHunter_73 Sep. 09 10.04Here are some sample combinations to get you started!

  • 6 Triscuits + 2 oz tuna
  • 1 Flatout wrap + 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup Cheerios + 6 oz Greek yogurt
  • 10 pretzels + 1 oz beef jerky + 1 string cheese
  • 1 apple + 1 oz cheese
  • wheat English muffin + 2 Tbsp hummus
  • 1/2 pita pocket + 1/4 cup beans + 1/4 avocado + salsa
  • smoothie: 1 frozen banana + 1 cup berries + 1/2 cup milk or yogurt

 

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There are some good recipes this week for things you might normally not think to make at home, like crackers and fruit roll-ups. Most of the time, like with these recipes, it really doesn’t take all that much to make something at home instead of buying a pre-packaged version. Not to mention that you then have much more control over what goes into your food. Is there anything you’ve tried making at home that you used to only buy pre-made at the store? I make all my bread at home and cook beans from scratch instead of buying canned. Sometimes, I’ll make granola and granola bars too!

a nice change from traditional chicken salad

make good use of that summer squash that is overflowing from your garden by throwing it on a pizza

you could also toss that summer squash in a salsa to eat on chicken or fish, mixed with brown rice or wheat pasta, or with tortilla chips!

fresh spring rolls look much more intimidating than they are. they’re easy to pack for lunch too!

make a blended chai latte at home to beat the heat and save some money (..and calories!) at the drive-through

there’s no reason to avoid eating veggies when you can eat them with pizza flavored hummus

no need to buy fruit roll-ups or fruit snacks packed with all kinds of shady chemicals when you can easily make homemade fruit roll-ups with fresh fruit. the only thing your kids (and you!) will notice is how much better the homemade version tastes 🙂

it may be hard to find good fresh mussels in kansas, but these coconut curry mussels look fantastic

making your own crackers is much easier than you might expect. these life changing crackers are packed with nutrients because they’re made with real food…something most crackers on store shelves can’t claim.

I can’t even describe how amazing these greek chicken plates look. lean protein, grains, and loads of veggies make it a perfectly balanced meal.

it may have been 100 degrees outside today, but this tuscan summer minestrone soup looks insanely delicous. this might be my lunches next week….

…I know, another soup…but this thai corn curry soup would be perfect with all the super sweet corn in season right now

if you want a fast, easy weeknight dinner that your whole family will love, look no further than sweet balsamic glazed chicken

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lots of great veggie filled recipes this week! many would make perfect leftovers for lunches. just make a big batch of something like the easy pasta salad or chickpea and mozzarella salad, portion into individual containers, and healthy, affordable lunches will be the easy choice all week long. Enjoy!

coconut basil chicken with brown rice looks AMAZING.

ginger garlic steak tacos with pineapple pico de gallo are perfect for summer

add those delicious fresh blueberries to a fresh blueberry lemonade

toss some potatoes and carrots on the grill – the herb feta pesto would be perfect on grilled meats too

vegetarians sometimes get stuck with a plate of baked beans or pasta at cookouts – serve these grilled portabellos for a nice change!

cherries are at their prime right now (and super cheap). if you can avoid eating them all fresh, throw some on the grill for this grilled cherry milkshake

another easy summer pasta salad. you can never have too many! it makes a perfect healthy, no-fuss lunch for the rest of the week too

take a trip to Morocco from your own kitchen with this vegetarian tagine

toss your next grain salad with some pesto for great flavor – like this chickpea, tomato, and mozzarella salad

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I hope you’re inspired by some of the recipes below to get in the kitchen (or out to the grill) this week. Enjoy!

roasted red pepper almond dip is the perfect way to add flavor to sandwiches, veggies, and meats

avoid artificial sweetners and colors in your summer drinks by making your own blackberry cherry lemonade

tabbouleh is a light, healthy grain salad that makes a great side dish. add chickpeas or grilled chicken to make it a filling meal all on its own

with whole wheat crust, veggies, and mozzarella (which is relatively low in fat), this stromboli is a delicious, healthy dinner you can have on the table in no time. who says healthy food can’t taste good??

if you’re tired of the same old granola bar snack every day, these caprese bites might be the perfect way to change it up this summer

zucchini pasta with homemade sauce is fast, easy, healthy, and makes use of the amazing summer produce available right now. real food at its finest.

this taco salad looks great but I think I’m most excited about that avocado lime dressing!

I’ve shared a lot of easy homemade popsicle recipes in these posts lately but if you just don’t want to make your own, these are some great guidelines for the best ones to purchase

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Here are some great recipes from the last week – a lot of red, white, and blue…and grilling! Stay tuned in the next couple days for a post covering just about everything you want to know about protein and another on figuring out food labels. Is there another nutrition-related topic you’d like cleared up? Let me know in the comments!

strawberry cream popsicles. I know….more popsicles…but it IS popsicle season!

summer fruit pecan crisp, as if you need another excuse to eat all of the delicious summer fruits

eggplant + chickpea coconut curry, because you can’t go wrong with curry

tomato, peach, + avocado bruschetta is a summer twist on a classic

have a backyard bbq side dish and a perfect lunch the following day with the leftovers of mediterranean lentil salad

how about red, white, + blueberry caprese salad for your 4th of july celebration?!

….or American flag jello?!

cornbread + homemade hot dog buns all rolled into one….does it get any better??

greek salad is always a winner

grilled bbq chicken pizza – my favorite homemade crust only takes 45 minutes (totally worth the wait) or if you’re really in a rush, make a quick flatbread crust by blending 1.5 cups flour, 1/2 cup water, and a pinch of salt in a food processor or by hand. No rising required – just roll it out and add your toppings! Make half of the flour whole wheat when making your crust for added fiber and nutrients!

grilled tofu is a great meatless option for summer cookouts

this summer chopped salad literally combines everything wonderful about summer food into one bowl

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LOTS of recipes this week! Anyone making anything new for 4th of July next week? If you still need ideas, I think you’ll find a few below – enjoy!

stir fry is a great summer meal – quick, easy, loads of veggies….this honey ginger pineapple stir fry even has caramelized cashews!

if you love polenta as much as I do, then these easy polenta chips need to happen ASAP.

how cute are these little chickpea sliders??

this grilled vietnamese steak and vermicelli bowl is a nice change from the typical steak dinner

millet is one of my very favorite grains, but I haven’t tried it for breakfast yet!

raspberry lemon yogurt popsicles would also make a completely suitable summer breakfast addition

I’m not a huge fan of kale salads so far, but I have a feeling that a grilled kale ceasar might change that

grilled fruit is amazing and this grilled pineapple relish would be killer on some grilled chicken or pork!

mini blueberry pancakes!!

samosas are flaky little dough pockets packed with flavorful ingredients…like veggies and goat cheese! they’re often fried, but these are baked. healthy bonus!

I fully intend on making this simple summer chickpea salad for a cookout next week…and trying not to eat it all before I get there. no promises on that last part though.

can’t forget dessert…and another reason to buy the strawberries and raspberries that are insanely delicious right now

to finish up this week, these are my exact thoughts on why “cheat days” aren’t such a great idea. moderation is always the best way to go for weight loss or health in general.

 

CookSmarts Meal Planning

One of the most common requests I get as a dietitian is for a meal plan. Sometimes, I’ll give clients a sample day or week to get them started but, as I’ve said previously, it’s not really about following a strict plan. My job is to help people learn why they eat what they eat and then develop strategies that can help them change their eating habits for the better in order to reach their goals.

With that being said, however, sometimes you just get stuck. Before you know it, it’s 15 minutes past dinnertime, everyone in the house is hangry and you have no idea what to make. So, you get fast food. Or eat Pop Tarts. Or maybe you just get stuck making the same couple of recipes every week in a rotation and you want a change but you’re not sure how to make it happen. I LOVE food and cooking but at the end of the day, I often just stick with a few tried and true staples because I always have everything I need in my kitchen and I can basically make them in my sleep.

Understanding the why behind your food choices is a major part of making a lifestyle change but, once you’ve decided to take that step, it is so important to have a plan in place to help you succeed.

That is the very reason why I was intrigued when I read about CookSmarts on another food blog. At first, I didn’t think it would be something I would find useful. I have TONS of recipes that I could make if I wanted to. But there is obviously a large gap between having recipes in a book on your shelf and actually preparing them. So, I signed up for a free account that provides 3 sample menus and some informational e-mails. Then, when I saw a spring sale on CookSmarts subscriptions a few weeks ago, I thought I’d check it out for a month. One week was all it took to convince me how useful this could be for busy people who want to put delicious, healthy meals on their table.

Before I tell you more about it, no one at CookSmarts paid me to write this post. I just think it’s a really great tool that many people would find useful!

Here’s how it works: each Friday, you get an e-mail with the next week’s menu. Each menu has 4 recipes that prepare 4 servings each. You also have the option to select an alternative version of the recipe to meet your dietary restrictions. The menu looks like this:ScreenHunter_66 Jun. 07 16.50I know what you might be thinking – what if I don’t like one of the recipes in the plan? Well, all of the recipes are pretty awesome, but in my second week there were a couple I didn’t want. Luckily for me, they just added the Add a Meal button you see at the bottom of the menu above. This allows you to add meals from the archives to your week! Then, when you click customize, you can select which meals from the current week and which of the added meals you would like to make. One thing to be aware of is that some recipes use ingredients or leftovers from the other recipes in that week’s plan. This saves time and ingredients, but be aware of these dependencies when switching recipes around [don’t worry, they tell you what receipes depend on others too!].

Customization is also where you select the version of each recipe you want to prepare (original, gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian). Once you customize it, you get a shopping list with everything you need for the week’s meals:

ScreenHunter_68 Jun. 12 14.51You can easily cross off things you already have on hand and then buy whatever else you need. Since it’s just me around here and I didn’t want any food to go to waste, I started with just one recipe for the week:

ScreenHunter_66 Jun. 07 16.49Pork loin was kind of expensive at the store (and you could only buy it in quantities that would feed small countries), so I used chicken breast instead and it turned out fantastic! The chicken just cooked in the slow cooker all day and the slaw came together in about 2 minutes. Plus, I had leftovers for other meals all week!

20140607_170254Since I was only making one recipe, I didn’t really need to do much pre-prep, but CookSmarts takes care of that as well. In addition to generating a shopping list when you customize your menu, it also generates a list of items that can be made ahead. Ideally, you would prepare these items on the weekend when you have more time and then the weeknight meals really come together in a breeze.

ScreenHunter_68 Jun. 12 14.52As you can see above, there are even short videos that help you through the process if you aren’t sure how to, say, dice a shallot. Honestly, if I had a commercial kitchen space, this is the kind of stuff I would LOVE to be doing with people to show them that healthy, homemade food really does taste good! But since I don’t have a kitchen space (…yet), I think this is the next best thing. Besides, the subscriptions are so affordable, there’s really no reason NOT to do it if you need a little more variety and confidence in the kitchen. They have monthly, quarterly, or annual subscriptions – the monthly is only $8! Like I discovered, you really have nothing to lose by trying it for a month, or at least signing up for a free account and checking out the sample menus.

This could honestly be the boost you need to start making healthier choices. If you give it a try, let me know! I’d love to know what you make!