One of the things I miss most about being little is the ritualized afternoon snack. The three or four hour lull in between getting home from school and dinner meant that a snack was expected. Now that I’m an adult, I don’t do snacks, per say. Instead, I tend to be a grazer. I eat smaller portions a few times throughout the day rather than set breakfasts, lunches, or dinners. However, the magic of the afternoon snack has vanished.
Part of the appeal was, I suppose, the ritual. Getting home and choosing a snack before starting homework felt routine. I would spread my homework out on the kitchen table and head for the pantry or fridge. Sometimes, if there wasn’t too much homework, you would snack in front of the TV and then head outside until it got dark. The snacks I ate as a kid weren’t always the healthiest. Goldfish crackers, pudding cups, and Oreos were personal favorites. If my parents were home, my snacks skewed more healthfully, but when left to my own devices the unhealthy snacks were my go-to.
As nutrition guidelines have changed over the years, do snacks still have a place in a well-rounded diet? Absolutely, say nutrition experts. But snacking, just like regular meals, should be governed by solid nutritional guidelines. As an adult, here are some of my new favorite snacks. I try to steer myself towards fruits and veggies for when I’m feeling peckish, and when I’m actually hungry I go for some protein. For parents who are looking to steer their kid’s snacking habits but aren’t able to be home when their child gets home from school, why not try prepping snacks in advance?
Peanut Butter and…Whatever
Whether it’s apple slices, celery, or a banana, peanut butter seems to go with just about anything. Peanut butter is high in calories but it also has quite a bit of protein for a great mid-morning or afternoon energy boost, and it’s so flavorful that you don’t need too much. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, why not spread some peanut butter on celery sticks and put raisins on top for ants on a log? To monitor how much peanut butter you’re actually using, pre-measure a reasonable amount of peanut butter into a small container.
What do you get when you combine peanuts, almonds, cashews, raisins, and M&Ms? A really delicious (and pretty nutritious) snack! Rather than buying pre-made trail mix (which tends to be high in salt), why not make your own? That way, you can control your own proportions. This snack is particularly excellent because it has a nice balance of salty and sweet, and the protein from the nuts is straight up energizing. Again, trail mix can get high in calories if you munch on it for an extended period of time, so pre-measure out your portions so that you can monitor the amount you’re eating.
Okay, so this one might sound a little weird, but I’m not talking about potato chips and a dairy-based dip. What I’m talking about are some tortilla chips and either salsa or guacamole. With some snacks, it seems like you finish them so quickly you aren’t satisfied. Tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole take a little more time to eat, and so may psyche your brain into thinking you’ve eaten more than you actually have. To boost the benefits of your dip, try making it at home. Avocados are high in fat but also high in other important vitamins, and tomatoes are a super healthy (and super flavorful) addition to anything. By making your dip at home, you’ll also be ensuring that there isn’t additional salt or sugar added to the mix.
A handful of blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries makes for a super tasty after-school treat. Frozen or fresh, berries can pack a big punch nutritionally. For added substance, try mixing in some plain or Greek yogurt.
Orange You Glad You Ate a Healthy Snack?
I recently discovered Cara Cara Navel Oranges, which are a lovely ruby-red color and pack a flavor that I think beats other kinds of oranges any day of the week. If the peel puts you off, why not try buying a simple orange peeler?
What are some of your favorite afternoon snacks?