While we don't recommend avoiding snacking altogether, we do believe summertime is the perfect time for healthy snacking - there are just so many great things to choose from. For starters let's look at the abundance of summer produce, in particular berries, cherries, watermelon, tomatoes, peaches, avocadoes, and bell peppers.
Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, huckleberries, marionberries) and cherries just taste like summer, don't they? They are 'superfoods' loaded with antioxidants and fiber. At an average of about 50 calories per ½ cup, they are a great addition to protein-dense Greek yogurt. One of our favorite snacks is ½ cup plain lowfat Greek yogurt with ½ cup berries or fresh cherries mixed in and about 1 tablespoon sliced almonds or chopped walnuts. It's the perfect balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat, providing roughly just under 200 calories per serving. You can certainly enjoy berries on their own, but then you'll be getting mostly a good dose of carbohydrate and natural sugar, which is why we like to balance berries with a little protein. Here are a few other combination ideas:
- ½ cup berries (or cherries) with 1 piece string cheese.
- ¼ cup berries (sliced if larger sized) on top of a rice cake topped with almond butter - or on top of a whole grain bagel "thin" topped with ricotta cheese.
- ½ cup berries plus 6 ounces of almond milk, ice, and a scoop of vanilla protein powder - blended to perfection. For a fun boost try adding a handful of green kale or baby spinach leaves.
Watermelon is refreshing and surprisingly nutritious. Chop seedless watermelon into bite-sized chunks and sprinkle with (1 tablespoon) chopped hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, or almonds and just a touch of fresh lime juice. This makes for a delightful and satisfying snack.
Tomatoes can be enjoyed sliced, diced or hollowed out and stuffed with something delicious like salmon salad, mozzarella balls, diced cucumber and fresh basil, or a mixture of all of the above. Hollow out a medium size tomato and slice in half. Fill each half with 1 tablespoon of hummus or babaganoush. Tomatoes are well known for their antioxidant content, in particular, lycopene, which may have possible anti-cancer qualities. Tomatoes are also a great source of vitamins A & C as well as the mineral potassium. Tomatoes also contain magnesium, a mineral many of us tend to run low in.
Slice up a peach and make a dipping sauce of ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, 1-teaspoon honey, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. Or slice up a peach and place in ½ small whole grain pita along with 1 tablespoon of your favorite nut butter. Go ahead and leave the skin on the peaches (and choose organic whenever possible). Both the skin and flesh of peaches contain a significant amount of antioxidants and fiber.
Enjoy ½ avocado stuffed with homemade tomato salsa or tuna salad (made with none other than plain Greek yogurt, onions, and celery). Chop up ¼ of an avocado and mash along with yogurt, a dash of lemon juice, a little dash of cayenne pepper and sea salt and enjoy on top of a wild rice cake. Alternatively enjoy this avocado "spread" on celery stick or on endive. Avocados often get a bad rap for being high caloric, but the truth is they are a super nutritious source of fiber, heart-healthy unsaturated fat, potassium, and vitamins C,K, folate, and B6.
Bell peppers are an awesome snack. They are loaded with vitamin C and fiber. They are refreshing and make great dipping "sticks" for hummus, or most any kind of healthy spread. Cut a red bell pepper in half and remove the spines and seeds. Cut again so you have 2 nice size pieces. Spread the insides with fresh goat cheese and sprinkle with fresh chives and fresh herbs like thyme and basil.
Ideally you want to limit your snacks to twice daily - mid-morning and mid-afternoon (depending on your schedule). Keep your snacks to between 100-200 calories unless you are an endurance athlete who needs to consume more calories throughout the day. Don't waste your snacking on packaged, "dead" foods that aren't enlivening whatsoever. Now is the time for the best of fresh, so take advantage of the bounty of goodness. Stay well hydrated throughout the day and this will help fend off the cravings for unhealthy snacking. Avoid the vending machines at work. Get yourself prepared in advance to really maximize your snacking. That may mean making sure you have a cooler with frozen ice packs ready to go each work day, pre- slicing or dicing fruits and/or veggies so they are ready to go when you need them. Try to wash your berries right before you eat them so they don't get soggy or moldy - also strawberries are best hulled just before eating as well. Of course go ahead and do all of this preparation in advance if it's going to get you to start being a more healthy snacker.