Diet & Nutrition
Healthy recipes

7 Steps to Healthy Snacks

Choosing snacks that are good for you is a big part of a healthy eating plan – and maybe the hardest to follow. If you’re having an energy valley in the middle of the afternoon it can be all too easy to reach for a candy bar. And, according to experts from Harvard Medical School, even snacks that are supposedly good for you can have nutritional culprits: for example, they say, cereal bars can have a lot of added fats or sugar, while fat-free foods often have more salt and sugar than you think.

Here, the Harvard experts, author of The Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating, share some guidelines for picking snacks that are good for you:

Pick whole grains.  Snacks such as whole-grain pretzels that are also low in salt, tortilla chips and whole-grain cereals can give you energy, according to the Harvard experts.

Have a second (sensible) breakfast. A slice of whole-grain toast with low-sugar jam tastes as good in the afternoon as in the a.m. The Harvard experts also suggest low-sugar granola.

Blend “high” and “low.” The Harvard experts suggest combining a small amount of peanut butter (high in healthy fat) with a larger portion of something light such as apple slices or celery sticks.

Get nutty. Good choices include, the Harvard experts say, include almonds, walnuts, peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, hazelnuts and filberts. These snacks have a lot of nutrients and will leave you feeling full. But, the experts caution, because nuts are so high calorie, keep portions small. And make sure these snacks are unsalted.

Balance is key. Eat more than one “macronutrient” (protein, fat, carbohydrate) at each snacking session, the Harvard experts say. They give the example of a few nuts (protein and fat) and grapes (carbohydrates). Or whole-grain crackers (carbs) with low-fat cheese (protein and fat). A balanced snack, the experts say, is likelier to be more satisfied.

Pay attention. Focus on what you’re eating, the Harvard experts say. Don’t surf the web, watch TV or work. Eat your snack, they suggest, in the same way you would eat a small meal.

Plan ahead. Take a small bag of healthy snacks so you won’t find yourself at the mercy of sudden hunger pangs that would take you to the nearest fast-food place or vending machine.

For more information, buy The Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.