If, like many modern Americans, you work hard and play harder, you also probably snack hardest. After all, longer workdays plus busy pre- and post-work lifestyles are leading about 90 percent of consumers to snack throughout the day, with some of them even replacing meals with snacks, according to the research firm Hartman Group.
If you are one of these busy folks or someone who just prefers snacking to meal-eating, you’ll need to choose wisely if you want to maintain a balanced diet without overeating. Here are nine dietitians’ recommendations for nutrient-packed snacks:
Tuna Salad Cucumber Cups
Cucumber “cups” stuffed with tuna salad make for a perfect “snack meal,” says Jessica Levinson, author of “52-Week Meal Planner.” She cuts a cucumber crosswise into 2-inch pieces and scoops out the inside to form a cup. Levinson mashes together drained, flaked tuna with mayonnaise, lemon juice and chopped celery, and scoops the tuna salad into the cucumber cups. This budget-friendly tuna delight will help you snack your way to consuming at least two servings of seafood a week, which is recommended for good health.
Whole-Wheat English Muffin Pizzas
Toby Amidor, a Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author, says her go-to balanced snack is half a whole-wheat English muffin topped with a tablespoon of low-sodium tomato sauce, one sliced white mushroom, 1 ounce of chopped grilled chicken and a teaspoon of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese. She bakes it in a toaster oven or traditional oven at 350 degrees F for five to eight minutes until the cheese has melted. This snack is a particularly good option for people with diabetes since it provides satisfying protein and plenty of fiber, both of which can help to slow daily spikes in blood sugar levels.
Greek Yogurt and Muesli Parfait
Jill Weisenberger, the author of “Prediabetes: A Complete Guide,” says low-fat Greek yogurt, berries and muesli with nuts are great ingredients for Type 2 diabetes prevention and management. The raw oats in muesli have resistant starch, which is difficult to digest, so it doesn’t contribute to blood sugar levels. This type of starch is also a preferred food for your gut bacteria, which form health-promoting compounds when they ferment the resistant starch, Weisenberger says. However, she also cautions that snacking throughout the day may not work for everyone with diabetes so check with a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in diabetes for personalized diet advice.
Salmon and Beans
All you need for a heart-healthy snack is a small, 2-ounce pouch of salmon and a can of beans, according to Rosanne Rust, an author of “DASH Diet For Dummies.” Rinse the beans under running water to reduce the sodium and combine a half-cup of the beans with the salmon. This snack is high in soluble fiber, which can help lower your blood cholesterol levels, and also provides plenty of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids from the fish. It’s a snack your heart and taste buds will love.
Mediterranean Snack Bowl
When New York City-based registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Gorin gets hungry for a snack, she goes Mediterranean. Gorin creates a bowl including a half-cup of rinsed and drained no-salt-added chickpeas, 10 olives, a handful of sliced tomatoes and a dash of black pepper. This delicious Mediterranean mini-meal is full of satiating protein, fiber and healthy fats.
Loaded Potato ‘Chips’
Maya Feller, a frequent nutrition contributor on Good Morning America, builds her carbohydrate-rich snack around a cooked potato, rather than a cracker or slice of bread. She recommends slicing a baked potato into rounds as thick as slices of bread, and topping each slice with a small amount of hummus, a slice of tomato and a cucumber.
Chrissy Carroll, who is also a triathlon coach, suggests shaking up snack time with a homemade blender drink. She recommends choosing at least one option from each of these three categories: carbohydrates (fruits and veggies), protein (yogurt, tofu, milk or protein powder) and healthy fats (chia, flax, avocado or nut butter). Toss them all in a blender and pour the mixture into a travel mug for an energizing snack on the go.
Samantha Cassetty, a nutrition and weight-loss expert in New York City, also recommends smoothies as a way to meet the recommended minimum of 4.5 cups of produce daily. She blends a mixture of frozen fruit and greens with Greek yogurt (or pea, almond or whey protein powder), milk and a nut or seed butter. With these staples on hand, you can whip up a smoothie in no time and also clean out your refrigerator of greens that are starting to wilt.
Keri Gans, author of “The Small Change Diet,” ladles up a cup of lentil soup for a warm, healthy snack. She buys it pre-made at her favorite takeout eatery or cranks open a canned variety and heats it in the microwave. Lentil soup is deliciously packed with fiber and protein, so a cup serving can help ward off afternoon hunger or can even be a light dinner if you double the portion.
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