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“Magnificent mini-bites” – 3 snacks to rev up your energy and mood

“Magnificent mini-bites” – 3 snacks to rev up your energy and mood

If you regularly indulge in a quick “nibble” between meals, you have plenty of company.  According to a recent National Health Nutrition Examination Survey, 90 percent of Americans acknowledge snacking between meals.  But - speaking from a health standpoint - is this a good thing?

It depends, of course, on your choices.  While highly-processed foods laden with pro-inflammatory fats, refined sugars, and “empty calories” get the thumbs-down from nutritionists (and rightly so), healthy choices exist.  So let’s check out some tempting snacks that can boost energy, soothe cravings and help to handle hunger pangs.  Along the way, they may even help support immune and metabolic health.  That sounds like a win!

Smart snacking begins with a winning “trifecta” of nutrients

Most dietitians agree there is nothing inherently wrong with eating between meals.  “Snacking is a good way to tame hunger if you’re going more than four to five hours between meals,” says nationally recognized nutrition expert Samantha Cassetty, M.S., R.D.  The key, says Cassetty, is to create a nutritious “mini-meal” that combines three nutrients: protein, fiber, and healthy fats (such as those found in nuts, olive oil, avocados, and fish). 

With that formula in mind, let’s look at three tempting examples.

Combine walnuts and pears for a satisfying snack

There’s something about the creamy richness of ripe pears and the buttery crunch of walnuts that makes this duo a true “dream team” of nutritious snacking.  For one thing, pears are rich in potassium - which helps maintain healthy blood pressure - and pectin, a soluble fiber that has been found to improve gut health and immunity.  And walnuts contribute beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, along with plant-based protein for quick energy. 

For a variation, try combining sliced apples and almonds.  Like pears, apples are packed with pectin - along with an anti-inflammatory flavonoid known as quercetin.  Apples also deliver chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant compound that may help support a healthy weight.  As for almonds, these flavorful tree nuts are high in antioxidant vitamin E and magnesium, which can support healthy blood pressure, regulate blood sugar and encourage a calm, stable mood.  Remember: the lion’s share of the fruits’ nutritional “goodies” is concentrated in the skin.  For maximum benefit, wash apples and pears well but don’t peel them.

Try cinnamon-roasted chickpeas and Greek yogurt for a quick energy boost

In this pleasing combo, the silky texture of Greek yogurt pairs well with the zest and crunch of cinnamon-roasted chickpeas.  Beloved by nutritionists for its healthy amounts of protein and bone-building calcium, Greek yogurt is also a probiotic food that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria and helps to balance the all-important gut microbiome. 

Recent research stresses the importance of a well-functioning microbiome in boosting immune system function, maintaining a positive mood, and helping regulate metabolism and weight.  With all nine essential amino acids, chickpeas offer up complete protein - making these tasty little morsels a wise addition to virtually any combination.  And they couldn’t be much easier to prepare.  Simply toss a can of rinsed, drained chickpeas with a little olive oil, sprinkle with cinnamon, and roast on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees until browned (about 20 minutes).  For a change of pace, try seasoning with other piquant spices such as turmeric, ginger or chili powder.

Cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries offer a jackpot of protein

This trio really delivers health-sustaining nutrients.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 100-gram serving of cottage cheese provides an impressive 11 grams of protein, along with calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin D.  Adding sunflower seeds contributes still more protein and fiber and pumps up the level of zinc, a mineral needed for immune system health.  Finally, dried cranberries contribute a pop of color and a pleasing, chewy texture.  (It doesn’t hurt that cranberries are jam-packed with anthocyanins, a group of plant pigments with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects).  This hearty snack can help fuel an effective workout - or serve as a quick pick-me-up in the case of an afternoon energy lag. 

Nutritionists also recommend the following:

  • Smoked salmon on whole wheat crackers with sliced tomatoes
  • Celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins
  • Baby carrots with hummus
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese with basil and sliced tomatoes

You’ll find that there’s no shortage of healthy combinations - once you start looking.

If your snacking preference currently runs to candy bars, potato chips, and doughnuts, don’t despair.  One day soon, you just might find yourself turning from the chips - and unexpectedly craving a magnificent mini-bite.

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