I love to snack. I love finger food, appetizers, tapas–if it’s tiny and I can eat it off of a mini plate with my fingers, I’m a fan. My favorite part of the day in elementary school was fruit break. To me, a road trip wouldn’t be a road trip without a cooler full of fun things to munch on.
Unfortunately, most snacks are not exactly renowned for being healthy or real. Especially when you’re at the whim of a vending machine, gas station, or lunch counter. Bags of chips, chocolate-covered cake bites, cookies, bright orange cheese crackers–you know what I’m talking about. They’re tasty, I know. But they’re not food. They haven’t seen the light of day for weeks, and have the same amount of nutritional value as a piece of styrofoam. Will they stop your hunger pangs for an hour or so? Probably. But they’re just as likely to give you a headache from sugar or MSG overload.
Your best bet? Stay away!
Okay, I admit it. There are times when I can’t resist the siren call of a Hostess Cake Roll. And those times usually happen because I wasn’t prepared. The trick is to be ready–when you go shopping, when you’re fixing lunch, before a long trip–to fend off the processed snack villans.
Prep Ahead of Time
My biggest obstacle to eating all the fruits and veggies before they spoil is preparation. If I know that I have to wash and chop or slice something, it puts me one step closer to looking for something that I can eat just by opening a package or sticking in the microwave (popcorn, I’m looking at you). To fight my lazy mid-week self, I try and do as much food prep as I can as soon as I get home from the farmer’s market or grocery store. [Note: when you are at the store, avoid the snack aisle! It’s bad enough saying no to processed snacks when you’re out and about, but if they live in your house, they’ll end up in your stomach.]
Coming home with my bags full of food, I’m excited about the things I bought. The vegetables that I saw looking so lovely on display need to be put away, and it only takes a few minutes to get them ready for snacking: just wash, slice them up and put them in an airtight container. Granted, you can’t do this with all produce, but for foods like carrots, green peppers, celery and grapes, a few minutes means a week of grab and go snacks without any further prep.
Harness your post-shopping energy (or your weekend energy, if you don’t like the shopping part) and you’ll be thanking yourself later. Especially when it’s 8:30 on a Wednesday night and the last thing you want to do is wash a cutting board and cut up a pineapple.
Bring it With You
Taking your own snacks is another line of defense against the non-food gremlins. Think about your routine, your day, your trip, and plan ahead. Pack more in your lunch than just a sandwich. I aim for a morning snack and an afternoon snack, and by including those things I don’t give the junk food cravings a chance to start.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. After all, real (simple) food is the point. Here are a few suggestions:
• Hard boiled egg
• Slices of whole milk cheese
• Fruit: an apple, banana, peach–even better if it’s in season!
• Sliced avocado or homemade guacamole with organic chips
• Homemade (or organic, corn-syrup free) granola bars (Donielle has a delicious recipe)
• Whole wheat crackers (there are some great recipes for these as well)
• Raw or dehydrated nuts (raw almonds are so tasty)
• Fruit leather – Stretch Island is my favorite brand, but you can also make your own
• Sliced veggies and hummus
• Yogurt (I buy a big container of plain yogurt and add my own berries)
Know Your Go-To Players
This is it. You’re down to the wire. You were running late, threw a sandwich together and ran out the door. Now it’s 3:45 and the nachos are calling. Before you mash together the vending machine buttons, take a moment and peruse your options. There might be something slightly more redeeming than a candy bar or cheeze curlz. Your best bets are baked chips, dried fruit, nuts (as long as they’re not roasted in sugar), sunflower seeds, or any other choices that have less sugar and look like they might actually expire in the future.
Maybe you’re on the road, and you’re about to pull in to the gas station: a Twinkie and a Slurpee should hold you over, right? Before you hit the turn signal, look around (or use your GPS) to see if there’s a grocery store nearby. You can easily run in and grab a piece of fruit or an organic smoothie for the same price as a 32 oz. vat of ice and sugar.
Use your snacking as a chance to add more vitamins and minerals to your diet. Get creative when you’re stuck with less options, and eat breakfast so you don’t end up feeling ravenous with two hours before lunch time. Find things that you like that will leave you feeling nourished at the same time.