Are you stuck in a nutritional rut, eating the same foods every day because it’s easy and efficient? Although this may not sound so bad if you eat a healthy diet, the downside is that you may be exposing yourself to the same nutrients, processing methods, pesticides (even in healthy, organic foods) every day, while also missing out on an array of nutrients.
If you’re trying to up your nutritional game without sacrificing efficiency when in a time crunch, making dietary swaps at snack time is a good place to start because these foods don’t require the investment of creating a whole new meal. The following three foods may be slightly off your radar, but they are fun, healthy and easy to add into your dietary repertoire.
Here’s why: You may order edamame at a Japanese restaurant, but it’s not likely one of your staple snack foods. Edamame is the young soybean that’s been harvested before the beans have a chance to harden. It makes a great snack because it contains fiber and protein, both of which are key for satiety. If you worry that green plant foods will leave you hungry, this one won’t.
Bonus: Research has linked soy foods like edamame to improved heart health, reduced risk of osteoporosis and cancer.
You can buy edamame shelled or in the pod, fresh or frozen.
Edamame comes in its own wrapper (the pod) so it isn’t processed like most snack foods and it may just have the crunch you’re looking for.
A serving is one-half cup shelled or a little more than one cup in its pod. You’ll get 120 calories, 11 grams of protein and 9 grams fiber.
Buy edamame and eat as a snack as is, or make these easy, satisfying edamame dishes to keep on hand for snacks:
Here’s why: You likely snack on a banana or apple, but aren’t going for sweet and delicious figs. Dried figs contain up to 50 times the polyphenol content of most other fruits. Phenolic antioxidants are powerful when it comes to defending the body from damage. Figs (and dates, too) make a great snack because they’re portable and can handle a hit to your bag without bruising. They’re also packed with fiber to keep you satiated and regular. Plus, figs are both sweet and fibrous, which means you can’t devour them quickly.
Paired with protein-rich, savory cheese, figs make for a filling, phytonutrient-packed, indulgent treat.
Enjoy three small figs and one small, light 30- to 35-calorie cheese round (one-half cup of fresh figs contains about 74 calories, so this light snack has approximately 125 calories).
Figs are rich in potassium and contain very little sodium, so they help to keep your blood pressure levels low.
Dried figs can add up in calories quickly, so keep portions to about one-half cup and round them out with cheese for protein.
Grab a few figs and a low-fat organic string cheese, or try this delicious alternative: Goat Cheese Walnut Stuffed Dates (To increase the protein content, swap the goat cheese for low-fat feta and use more feta.)
Crunchy Cucumber Sandwiches and DIY Veggie Chips
Here’s why: We all know we need more veggies, but most people aren’t opting for crudité and dip to meet their quota at snack time. Give yourself some enticing flavors and textures (like the ones below) to motivate you to get the powerful phytonutrients that help to fend off chronic illnesses. What’s better than a crunchy sandwich that contains just 50 calories and more protein than most yogurts? If that doesn’t call your name, what about chips that just happen to offer the fiber and phytonutrients that you’d get in a salad?
Try any of the options below. You can take them to the office or with you in the car. Plus, they all contain plenty of protein. Eat the “chips” and “fries” with one-half cup of nonfat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or with a hard-cooked egg, one-half cup edamame or with two tablespoons of hummus.
Skinny Cucumber Sandwiches (You can make these in minutes; choose either the cottage cheese or cheese varieties with tomato and they contain just 50 calories and 9 g protein.)
Skinny Egg Salad Sandwiches (Eat a few of these creamy numbers on crunchy cucumber “bread” and you’ll easily forget about the vending machine.)
Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse (“Lyssie”) Lakatos, The Nutrition Twins®, share a passion to teach people how to eat healthfully and exercise so they'll have energy to live happy lives. The twins have been featured as nutrition experts on Good Morning America, Discovery Health, Fox News, NBC, Bravo, CBS, The Learning Channel, FitTV, Oxygen Network, and Fox & Friends. They co-wrote The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty, The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat and the 4-Week Plan to Drop A Size & Get Healthier with Simple Low Sodium Swaps. The twins are both ACE Certified Personal Trainers, and members of the American Dietetic Association and several Dietetic Practice Groups.