Food is Fuel: Choosing Healthy Snacks that work for YOU
Snacking. Defined as “the act of eating a small amount of food between meals,” snacking can serve a variety of purposes. For some, it’s the relief of an uncontrollable craving. For others it’s a way to survive the boredom of your day. For me, it used to be a coping mechanism to deal with the overwhelm I faced at work on a daily basis.
But what your snack should be is fuel. It should be a little nutrient dense hunk of nourishment to quash those hunger pangs and give you the energy you need to maximize your productively until your next meal.
In a Google search of “top snacks in America,” this was the result:
What do all these popular snacks have in common? They’re loaded with sugar, processed food, more sugar, “carb-age” (carbs lacking any beneficial nutrients), and hydrogenated fats — all things that wreak havoc on your body and mind.
Processed foods like these cause digestive issues and leaky gut, inconsistent energy levels (think ‘sugar crash’), inflammation, unpredictable cravings, a foggy brain, and over time, contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and other serious health conditions. That bloating and gas you experience after a bag of Doritos? That’s not normal – it’s a sign of digestive distress!
It’s time to redefine snacking in America. It’s time to start choosing real, nutrient dense foods that satiate us, energize us, taste great, and work with our bodies, so we can be the best versions of ourselves and crush our busy lives!
NOT ALL SNACKS ARE CREATED EQUAL
With the explosion of real food products in the past 5 years, the number of healthy snacking options can be overwhelming. A quick stroll through the thousands of colorful bags, boxes, and bars at your local health food store can leave you scratching your head with more questions than answers… Which snacks really are “all natural”? Which brands can you trust? And why are they all so damn expensive?
To pinpoint what snacks are right for you, these are the factors you need to consider:
When you fill your car’s gas tank with the premium gas, the engine runs better! The same goes for your body. When you eat real, quality food, your systems function smoother, and you feel and look good. “Quality” means real food. Food that is eaten in its natural state or as close as possible. Food that is unprocessed, unrefined, or minimally altered. It’s produce that was raised as nature intended in chemical and pesticide free soils, or animals that were raised eating their natural diets. Because when your food eats its intended diet, it not only produces higher levels of nutrients, but also a more diverse range of nutrients, which benefit you!
In line with those values, shop for snacks that are:
- Gluten Free
- Dairy Free
- Refined Sugar Free
- Soy Free
- Grain Free
- Unprocessed or minimally processed
- Free of industrial oils (like canola, soybean, “vegetable”, corn, safflower, peanut oils)
And look for these common package labels that indicate high quality food practices:
- USDA Organic
- Pasture raised
- Wild caught
- Antibiotic free
- Preservative free
- Certified Paleo
- No added sugar
- Locally Grown
- In Season
Another way to determine a product’s nutritional quality is by assessing the ingredients. Ask yourself these three questions:
- Can I pronounce all the ingredients? (aka is this food composed of ‘real food’ ingredients?)
- Does this food contain any ingredients that seem like they don’t need to be there?
- Does this food contain any hidden refined sugars? (words often ending in -ose)
Yes, this is a lot of information. But if nothing else, just remember this: food is your fuel, so shop for snacks that are real food and/or made from ingredients that come from the earth.
If “quality” is one side of the coin, “affordability” would be the other. High quality tends to come with a high price tag, so it’s important to know what your budget is and plan your shopping accordingly. But just because you don’t have an unlimited grocery fund, doesn’t mean you can’t give your body nutrient dense snacks – you just have to be a savvy shopper!
Here are some ideas for healthy snacking without breaking the bank:
- Shop at Thrive Market, an online market specializing in popular health food brands at wholesale prices. Seriously, everything there is generally 25% off!
- Follow your favorite brands on social media and watch for special promotions! When a discount code is shared, jump on it and stock up by purchasing multiples instead of just one.
- Sign up for your favorite brand’s email list on their website. They’ll usually offer a discount code for your first purchase and email you special promotions from time to time
- Only purchase organic for the 12 fruits and veggies on The Dirty Dozen list (a list of the most pesticide laden produce) – the rest of your produce can be conventionally farmed.
- Shop for produce just before your local farmer’s market closes for the day. Vendors are usually willing to cut deals in order to move their products, make an extra buck, and reduce the amount of produce they have to transport back.
- Purchase the organic store brand products at health food stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s instead of specialty brands.
- Get acquainted with the bulk section at your local health foods store. Sometimes the price per pound for nuts, dried fruits, and beef jerky beats that of the pre-packaged alternative. Also, you have the advantage of purchasing only the amount you want!
- Instead of purchasing fancy protein or granola bars at $3-$5 a pop, opt for whole foods like an apple, a couple slices of grilled chicken breast, or a hard-boiled egg. Yes, it can take a little more meal prep on your end, but you’ll see the savings.
Another factor to consider when stocking your healthy snack arsenal is whether or not the availability of a snack fits your lifestyle. What I mean by that is, what balance of hunting versus gathering that works for you? Do you need snacks that can be gathered in a pinch at any grocery store? Is it easier to hunt online and wait a couple of days for your healthy snacks to ship to your cave? Or do you have ample free time to devote to making your own snacks from scratch?
As an art director who often works 10-12 hours days for weeks in a row, my free time is limited. What time I do have, I use to prioritize sleep, self-care, meal prep, and hopefully, a work out. That means a stop at the grocery store everyday day to grab a snack doesn’t work for me. Nor does spending hours after a long day meal prepping snack food in addition to the breakfasts and lunches I’m already preparing. So I choose to order my snacks online. This strategy works for me for several reasons: I’m good at planning ahead and placing an order before my snack arsenal is depleted, so the several day shipping isn’t a problem. My snacks arrive at my doorstep so I don’t need to waste valuable free time running around for them. And by purchasing online through Thrive Market, I’m getting a wholesale discount on every item and saving my hard-earned money! I also supplement with fresh produce that I purchase on my weekly grocery shopping trip.
So when it comes your own hunting and gathering, here are some questions to help you determine what snacks fit your lifestyle:
- Do I have time to hit a grocery store whenever I need a healthy snack?
- How close do I work or live to a store that sell healthy snacks?
- Am I good at planning ahead and ordering online?
- Is it safe to have packages shipped to my apartment or house (especially if I won’t be home)?
- Do I have the time/ skills/ energy to make my own snacks?
Food can be categorized in to 3 macronutrients (as called ‘macros’): protein, carbs, and fat. Each of these macros is made up of different combinations of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, amino acids, etc – each one vital to a healthy, vibrant body. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the science, but it’s important to be aware of what you’re consuming because as with everything in life, balance is key!
You may have heard of counting macros, which is a method often used for weight loss and body building. For people with specific body composition goals, eating strict macro ratios can produce great results. But on the flip side, it demands a considerable amount of work – you must carefully plan and track everything you eat and meal prep specifically for your macros ratios. If you’re looking for effortless healthy living, counting macros isn’t for you.
So instead, skip the counting and simply focus on balance! Eat mindfully. Be aware of what you’re fueling your body with. Strive for a variety of proteins, healthy fats, and quality carbs in your diet. If you have a high protein snack before lunch, balance it out with a different macro category later in the day. When you give your body variety, you maximize the nutrients your body receives, resulting in a stronger, healthier you!
MAKE YOUR HEALTHY SNACKS WORK FOR YOU
Armed with this information, you can now go forth to your health food grocery stores, your online markets, and your local farmer’s markets, filled with confidence in your snack selections, because not only are you choosing healthy snacks, but by choosing snacks that are in line with your nutrition goals, your wallet, and your life, you’re creating a healthy snacking habit that will soon become effortless!
TRIPLE PEAK PICKS
PROTEIN PACKED SNACKS:
Epic Bars // $2.50 each // Thrive Market, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s Online
The New Primal Beef Sticks // $2 each // Thrive Market, Online
Steve’s Paleo Goods PaleoJerky // $5.60 each // Online
EXO Protein Bars (Cricket Protein) // $3 each // Whole Foods, Thrive Market, Online
Applegate Naturals or Organics Deli Meat // $5 each // Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, other grocery stores
Larabars // $2.12 each // Thrive Market, Whole Foods, Vons, Online
RX Bars // $2.16 each // Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Online
Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips // $1.65 each // Whole Foods, Thrive Market
Plantain Chips // $1.73 each // Whole Foods, Thrive Market, Trader Joe’s
Dried fruit (no sulphur or sugar added) // price varies // grocery stores, online
Fresh Organic Fruit // price varies // grocery stores, farmer’s market, Amazon Fresh
Fresh Veggies // price varies // grocery stores, farmer’s market, Amazon Fresh
Dark Chocolate Almond Bar with Grass-Fed Collagen // $3 each // Thrive Market, online
Dang Unsweetened Toasted Coconut Chips // $4.99 each // Thrive Market, Whole Foods
Justin’s Almond Butter Individual Packet // $1.59 each // high fat, high quality // Thrive Market, Whole Foods
Nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, etc) // price varies // Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Thrive Market, Nuts.com
Whole Avocado // $2.50 each // grocery stores, farmer’s market, Amazon Fresh
Hard Boiled Egg // $.50 each // grocery stores, Amazon Fresh