California Almonds partially sponsored a CHCH TV segment on Snacking with Benefits. Watch here! What's a snack with benefits? Well, you've heard of friends with benefits, right? Well, along those same lines, a snack with benefits gives you a little extra something-something beyond basic nutritional value.
Are you a snack-lover? I am.
Sometimes I snack on a sweet something -- that could be fruit or a muffin or an energy bite. Sometimes I want the crunch of veggies, especially carrots or snap peas. Sometimes I need longer lasting energy and look for a more satiating snack like almonds or Greek yogurt.
Sometimes I snack on a cookie. (If you follow me, you know I'm all about overall diet quality versus one food making or breaking your nutritional game.)
Mostly I choose whole food snacks that nourish my body and fuel me with good energy, like the foods I've got listed below.
Isn't snacking bad for you?
While it's true that snacks can easily add too much food into your day if you enjoy big portions when you aren't truly hungry or are eating when distracted, a nourishing snack can fill nutrient gaps in your day and help manage munchies so you don't overeat at your next meal.
Here are four tips to help keep snacking on track:
Snack IF or WHEN you are hungry, not bored, sad, or tired.
Snack mindfully – don’t snack distracted, like when you are watching TV, scrolling through Instagram or texting your friends. You'll likely end up eating more than you intended.
Snack on mostly nourishing foods that give you energy and nutrients for optimal health.
Keep an eye on portion size – snacks aren’t meals (unless they are!)
And in terms of those nourishing snacks, here are four of my favourites that offer more than meets the eye in terms of nutritional value.
1. The Gut Health Booster: Kefir Shots
Ideal for: If you like bottled yogurt drinks….kefir shots are better than bottled with no added sugar!
Added bonus: super snack for gut health
Kefir is a fermented dairy product with active bacterial cultures – can improve your gut microbiota, enhance your digestive health and potentially alleviate various digestive issues (irritable bowel).
How to Make: In a blender: whirl together 1 cup of kefir + 1 cup of frozen blueberries until smooth. Drink immediately.
Make ahead: make it today; sip tomorrow. Store in the fridge in a container with a lid. Give a good shake before sipping.
Another reason to sip on this shot: blueberries are linked with brain health benefits.
2. The On-The-Go Energizer: Almonds
Ideal for: Snacking on the go with great taste and crunch!
Added bonus: long lasting energy
Almonds are perfect for when you need something to keep you satisfied for a while…
A serving offers:
6 grams of energizing protein
4 grams of hunger-fighting fibre
+ healthy fats
= super combination for long lasting snacking satisfaction
A small handful (23 almonds) is a serving; package up ahead in small containers.
How to enjoy:
On their own -- a small handful is great to crunch on in place of less-nutritious choices
Added into a trail mix with a bit of dried fruit.
Chopped and sprinkled onto Greek yogurt.
Another reason to love almonds: with magnesium, vitamin E and healthy fats in every healthy bite, almonds are a super snack with added heart health benefits.
3. The Tide-You-Over Snack: An Apple
Ideal for: When you just need a little nibble to get you by, for example, when dinner is an hour or so away.
Added benefit: — an apple a day might just keep the doctor away after all!
Apples have an antioxidant, quercetin, that potentially reduces inflammation and boosts immunity. More research is needed – especially on the human health effect since research is in test tubes and animals – but it looks promising.
How to snack on an apples:
As is – crunch!!
Add a schmear of almond onto apple slices, top with almonds and blueberries
Excellent paired with a piece of old cheddar cheese.
Another reason to bite into an apple: apples are high in fibre; one medium apple has 4 grams of fibre to help you to stay satisfied.
4. The Sweet Treat Snack: Dark Chocolate
Ideal for: satisfy that craving for a little something sweet.
Added benefit: potential mood booster.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids (antioxidants) that are thought to boost brain function (memory), reduce cognitive decline and improve mood.
Research into dark chocolate and mood is not conclusive, but, even if the research doesn't pan out on this one, I can tell you from experience that a good piece of chocolate is truly pleasurable. I don’t rely on it to boost my mood, but it does taste darned delicious!
How to enjoy:
Choose a small-ish piece of high quality dark chocolate (70% or more) and savour every bite.
Melt it and use it as a dip (or drizzle) for fruit.
Stuff small pieces of dark chocolate into a couple of dates, along with almonds.
Another reason to love dark chocolate: there’s some research to suggest that along with brain health, it may offer heart health benefits. Sounds great, but truly, I wouldn’t start eating chocolate for the health of it. Enjoy it for the deliciousness. For health, veggies and fruit are your better bet.
Canadian Nutrient File v2015
Lee Y et al. Effects of dark chocolate and almonds on cardiovascular risk factors in overweight and obese individuals: a randomized controlled-feeding trial. J AM Heart Assoc. 2017 Nov 29; 6 (12).
Li Y et al. Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity. Nutrients. 2016 Mar; 8(3): 167.
Scholey A and Owen L. Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. 2013. October.
Nehlig A. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar; 75(3): 716-727.