As mentioned in my blog post, Getting Your Health Journey Started: Tips for Success, part of staying consistent and engaged with your food program is being prepared. Daily life can be hectic and unpredictable, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to grab the nearest, not so healthy, snack when hunger strikes. Keep in mind that you have already come this far in your health journey, and it was hard work! Whether you decided to begin your health journey an hour ago or you are already 8 months into it, it is an accomplishment that required and will continue to require several sacrifices. One of those sacrifices is taking time to prepare and have on hand nutrient dense and clean ingredient snacks to get you by in between meals. Because of this, I want to share some of my own favorite snacks to get your grub on.
Clean Ingredient Meat Sticks
There are many meat sticks out in the market, but this particular one is my favorite! Not only are the ingredients clean and delicious, but it is wrapped in a beef collagen casing. I always alternate between the beef and venison meat sticks. Both are filling and scrumptious! Thanks Chomps for always coming in clutch! If you are not a fan of meat, but you love fish, EPIC also sells an amazing salmon jerky stick! Their ingredients are clean and sustainable. Check out the quality of ingredients in chomps in comparison to your conventional meat stick.
Repeat after me: READ YOUR FOOD LABELS! Your health is worth investing that extra time in reading what you will be putting into your body. As you can tell by the ingredient lists above, the Slim Jim meat stick has plenty of unnecessary ingredients and frankly, unhealthy ones that add little to no nutritional value.
Nuts are high in protein and good fats. Did I mention they are also extremely nutrient dense? Nuts will satisfy your hunger and keep you satiated until its time for your meal. Nuts should not replace your meals, but they are a great and easy snack to bust that hunger. I always keep a bag of mixed nuts in my purse and in my car for those long busy days where I have to wait quite a while before eating meals. I am normally good to go eating a handful or 2 of mixed nuts. Here are the measurements I use to make my own mix that I portion into separate smaller bags.
- 1/4 cup of raw cashews
- 1/4 cup raw pecans
- 1/4 cup raw pistachios
- 1/4 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- Optional: Make a trail mix by adding 1/4 cup of chopped dates and 1/4 cup of any dried fruit of your choice. Make sure your dried fruit does not contain any cane sugar or artificial sweeteners!
If you are wanting to grab something sweet from the nearest vending machine, think again. Dried fruit is a great alternative for when you feel that sweet tooth kicking in. Don’t forget that even though fruit is a much better alternative to any conventional cupcakes, donuts, or cookies, they are still to be consumed in moderation. Also, if you are sensitive to sugar whether it be natural or from refined sugars, please ask your doctor before consuming sweet foods in general.
Some of my favorite dried fruits are dates of any variety, unsweetened cranberries, Smyrna figs from Sunny Fruit, and different blends of dried apples, dried tropical mixed fruits, and dried mangoes from Peeled Snacks. Again, make sure the ingredients in your dried fruit contains ONLY the dried fruit. Many companies will add cane sugar or other artificial sweeteners to their fruit and market it as a health product. Dried fruits are already quite sweet, so stay away from those unnecessary ingredients. Just like my mixed nuts, I always have some kind of dried fruit on hand for when I feel lethargic or when my body is craving something sweet.
Chocolate Bars….YES, You Read it Correctly!
Now before you flip out on me let me explain. The chocolate bars that I am talking about are in no way, shape, or form those treats you see at the convenience store filled with sugar, dairy, oils, and all sorts of crazy ingredients. The chocolate bars I am talking about are made from organic cacao and sweetened with coconut sugar. These chocolate bars are nutrient dense and one piece of the bar will keep you satisfied. My favorite go-to brand is Eating Evolved. They are USDA Organic and just straight up awesome! Their motto is, “It’s food, not candy”. They are very active with their customers on Instagram and take customer service and food waste very seriously. Did you know this brand even sells bags of their broken chocolate bars to minimize food waste?
Now, let’s take a look at the ingredients from an Eating Evolved Cashew Milk Chocolate Bar and the ingredients from a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.
|Eating Evolved Cashew Milk Bar||Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar|
Now, quantity does not equal to quality. Just because both bars have a short ingredient list does not mean they are both of the same nutritional value. The ingredients in the milk chocolate bar are vague and will be difficult to trace the source of the chocolate and even the dairy. Is this dairy coming from grass-fed cows, or from poor cows whose utters are milked daily with machines for years of their sad lives? The next thing is that there is refined sugar in these bars. Sugar causes different chemical reactions in the body. Most of us have experienced it via a sugar rush and crashing after a period of time. You need to be especially careful if you have a condition that may be affected by the ingestion of sugar. Lecithin is also something you do not want to be consuming frequently since it is just a food additive and may cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating in some people.
Fruit and Nut Bars
Fruit and nut bars are not only delicious, but they are convenient in terms of nutrient density as well. However, you MUST always read your labels. There are so many “health food” companies out there that market their products as simple and nutritious, BUT once you actually flip over to the label and read it, you will see that they are not so simple. Take for example, KIND bars. They have fruits and nuts in them, but they also have glucose syrup, processed cacao, natural flavors, soy lecithin, and sugar. Whaaat?
Now, take a look at LARABAR, which is my personal favorite brand of fruit and nut bars. They market their products to have simple ingredients and when you look at the label, they stand true to their word. I have tried most of their original bars and some of their super-food bars. I love the flavors and the variety. Most importantly, they keep me full until my next meal. These bars fit perfectly in your pocket, purse, backpack, or even a compartment in your office desk. Just for fun, let us take a quick look at the ingredient labels from both KIND bar and LARABAR.
LARABAR- Chocolate Coconut Chew
KIND bar- Dark Chocolate Almond & Coconut
Even if a product is marketed as a health item, do not trust their advertising 100%. The majority of times you will see that they add different preservatives, “natural flavors”, gums, and other unnecessary ingredients such as sugars. Make sure to watch out for hidden forms of sugar as well! You deserve to be ingesting foods that give you the best nutritional payoff. Your body needs to be nourished properly and having some of these snacks on hand will truly help you achieve that. Now go on and prepare your snacks for the week and remember, always read your ingredient labels!