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9 Things You Should Look For In A Good Snack

by Sarah on May 6, 2011

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My Favorite Snacks, Part 1

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens;
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens;
Brown paper packages tied up with strings;
These are a few of my favorite things.

- Julie Andrews and Rogers and Hammerstein

When I was a kid, I loved belting out the song, “My Favorite Things” along with my record of Julie Andrews.  In fact I knew just about every single word in the Sound of Music.  A couple of my friends and I used to put on productions of the play, rotating who got to play Maria.

But you know that song in particular stuck with me.  Because I really loved thinking about those simple things that make life so wonderful.

A good snack is the same thing. It can transform your day.

And I’m not just talking about the pleasure brought by comfort food.

I’m talking about how a wisely chosen snack can give you energy, fill your belly and provide reams of other health benefits as well -

Without adding unnecessary calories.

Snacks sometimes get shortshrifted when it comes to giving them our full attention because they’re . . .  well . . . snacks.  Something we do “on the side”.  Not a real sit-down meal.

But they add up when it comes to sugar and empty calories that grow your belly.

And on the other hand they can be a critical turning point in your day. They can make all the difference in whether you’re able to get through the next 2 hours of work with your brain’s lightbulbs blazing or not.

When I look at snacks I look for a number of factors:

1.    I try to cut carbs. I love my home-baked bread and pumpkin bread.  But I know, especially now that I’ve crested over 40 years, that my body doesn’t do as well on carbs.  Especially my hips.  So while occasionally I’ll treat myself, I’ve looked for other ways to enjoy my snack time. And certainly, when I do eat carbohydrates, I look for whole grain ones that bring me lots of vitamins, fiber as well as a slower release of glucose into my bloodstream.

2.    High protein. Because I try to keep active, my body needs lots of protein to continue to build muscle tissue.  But it’s not just for muscles – it’s one of the major building blocks for everything in your body – from antibodies to enzymes.

Protein also slows down digestion making you feel fuller longer.  And because it slows down digestion, if you take it in with a few carbs it evens out the release of sugar to your bloodstream – preventing those terrible energy spikes . . . and the lows that come with them!

3.    Some nice fats. Fats have gotten a bad rap. But your body needs them – that’s why we crave them.  And I’m not convinced that saturated fats are off the plate, as long as they’re from healthy animals and they’re balanced out with other kinds of fats.  I’ll talk more about this in a later article.

I get a lot of my snack fats from nuts. And these fats have been linked specifically to reducing your stomach’s release of the hormone ghrelin that starts the “I am hungry” feeling. I also put whole or 2% organic milk in my tea and like a little butter on my popcorn.  By giving my body these small, healthy doses of fats, I don’t crave big gooey doses that can really do me in.

4.    B vitamins. There’s too much good stuff about the B’s to put here.  But of immediate interest – B vitamins are brain food and energy food.  They are one of the few ingredients in some energy drinks that I agree with.  But I heartily recommend getting them from food with lots of nutritional value rather than from some chemical cocktail. They taste pretty bad in this form, too.

5.    Fiber rich. Fiber is like your digestive system’s scrubber. It’s also the food of choice for the probiotic bacteria in your lower intestine that in turn keep you healthy and energized. Also fiber makes you feel full without adding calories.  And, because it slows down digestion, you feel fuller longer without blood sugar roller coasters.

6.    Overall nutrition! Hey anytime I can sneak in some more flavonoids, vitamins, minerals and other special nutrients I will.  I choose my snacks to be good to me so I can get the most out of each day.

7.    Inexpensive. Even when my income has gone up with my business growth, I like to live carefully.  It just gives me more options.  And while I certainly am happy to invest in good food (I’m a foodie through and through), I still like to save.  It doesn’t make sense to me to spend $1-3 on an energy bar spiked with sweeteners when I can get the same satisfaction from a handful of nuts and fruit. Much of what I snack on is easy to make at home or purchased in bulk from our coop.

8.    Easy. No need to explain this one!

9.    Tasty. I was going to let this criteria stand on its own when I realized something needed to be said here.  My kids certainly think I have some of the weirdest predilections when it comes to food. And you may not be so enamored of the snacks I suggest either. Because when you’re used to eating a certain way, it’s sometimes hard to switch. Your brain and your tastebuds have been well-trained.

It can take some time for your taste to adjust to simpler flavors, less sweet, less salty, less rich when you’ve been eating this way.  And if you’re used to these flashy stimuli, you probably won’t notice and enjoy some of the more subtle flavors of whole foods.

But you can and will adjust with a little diligence and time. In fact, the taste buds on your tongue are renewed about every two weeks.  And your brain can shift as well (my husband is proof!) So if you can shift your eating for a couple weeks, while focusing on how good you feel eating this way, you’ll find you’ll enjoy stuff that didn’t ring your bell a few days back.

In Your Healthy Home Biz ebook, I’ve put more tips on how to strategize about snacking, your schedule and even retraining your brain so instinctively you start to crave good stuff.  But this list here is a nice starter.

Stay tuned, in a couple days I’ll be sending out the actual list of my 8 favorite snacks.

And if you have any questions or comments, please bring them over to the blog.  All of us could gain (in good ways!) from what you have to add!

7072792 s 150x150 9 Things You Should Look For In A Good SnackThis post is part of the Your Healthy Home Biz. YHHB gives home business owners specific strategies, tips and inspiration for running your home business without running yourself into the ground.  To get weekly tips sent right to your inbox plus the invaluable but free guide “The Easy Way To Sneak Exercise Into Your Workday And Get More Done” sign up at www.yourhealthyhomebiz.com.

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