From healthier, salty, crunchy, craving crushers to eating the rainbow

BY ALETHEA PRICE

Food is a defining characteristic of most cultures. In our culture, we tend to do a lot of snacking which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, we don’t always make healthy snack choices. The availability of processed snack foods such as chips and snack cakes has subjected us to choosing the least healthy foods. The issue to tackle isn’t snacking too much, it’s what we choose to snack on.

Snacks can play a very big role in managing multiple body functions. Having snacks throughout the day can help your body by regulating blood sugar, boosting your metabolism and managing hunger. Think of a snack as a mini meal based on the MyPlate guidelines. Snacks should be balanced and not too heavy on the sugar or carbs. They should be made with fresh ingredients, easily accessible, and should taste great. Here are some tips for making some subtle changes to some of our favorite snacks.

First let’s start with a crunch. One of the most common food cravings that lead to an unhealthy snack choice is the desire for something crunchy and salty. Chips tend to be a perfect fit until you realize how much sodium they have. Pretzels are a slightly better option since they are fat free and come in low sodium options. Some healthier salty crunchy craving crushers include whole grain crackers with a variety of dips or spreads such as low fat cheese, hummus, or bean dip. Remember, portion size does matter when it comes to eating these foods. Just because you made a healthier choice doesn’t mean you get to eat more. Although whole grain crackers are better for you, when eaten in large amounts they can be just as calorie dense as an entire bag of greasy potato chips. If you are looking to cut carbs, try getting crunch from fresh vegetables. They make great dippers for just about anything while still leaving you with that full feeling thanks to their fiber content.

Next we hail the all mighty sweet tooth that causes us to consume mass quantities of sugary sweet confections. Conquering the sweet craving is very easily done with a little help from the fruit group. Fruits are naturally sweet and fall right in line with MyPlate’s daily guidelines. Fresh fruit is extremely easy to grab on the go. It’s literally a prepackaged snack given to us by dear sweet Mother Nature. The best part is that you can eat the wrapper! Most fruits and vegetables hold the majority of their fiber content in their edible peel. Choose whole pieces of fruit more often than fruit juice in order to gain the benefits of the fiber. Fresh berries work well as sweet snacks and dessert. Blueberries are great fresh, in yogurt, or frozen on a hot summer day. They are packed with antioxidants that will boost your immune system while satisfying your sweet tooth.

It’s easy to say that we are going to change our snack habits by cutting out the processed foods we love, but how do we translate that into actual change? It’s Important to set yourself up for success. Stock the fridge with heathy snacks. Have those healthier options on hand instead of the processed junk food. Place all healthy snacks in the front of the fridge so you see them first. Also have a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand so you don’t get bored with just apples, bananas, carrots and celery. Mix it up, eat the rainbow. Try some sugar snap peas, radishes, raspberries, and kiwi. Eat the rainbow. I’m talking about having all colors of fruits and vegetables represented in your daily diet. You eat with your eyes first, colorful snacks will seem much more appealing. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Always check out the local Farmer’s Market and farm stands for in season eats. There is something wonderful about meeting the farmer that grew the tomato you bought to make salsa with later.

Here are some tips for packing and eating healthy snacks:

  • Have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand and already packaged to grab and goPut healthier snack options near the front of the fridge to catch your eyePre-measure and package dips in the appropriate amount per servingKeep a variety of fresh produce (eat the rainbow)Buy Local

Tomatoes are now in season, and soon you might have more on your hands than you know what to do with. A great way to use excess tomatoes, peppers, onions and other ingredients is by making salsa you can enjoy fresh now. The best part about salsa is the large amount a recipe can make. It’s great for sharing with friends and family. Here is a really tasty and easy recipe for salsa. It would go perfectly as a snack or starter or you could can it and give as a gift. What a great opportunity to get in the kitchen with your kids and whip up some salsa or any of these healthy snacks.

Traditional Salsa

Ingredients

7 cups diced, seeded, peeled, cored tomatoes

6 green onions, sliced

2 jalapeño peppers, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup vinegar

2 tablespoons bottled lime juice

4 drops hot pepper sauce

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Prepare tomatoes: Peel tomatoes by dropping into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until the skins begin to split. Remove from the boiling water and dip immediately into cold water. The skins will slip off easily. Remove cores and seeds; dice.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Cool then serve with tortilla chips