Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Conscious Guide to Choosing Snacks

By: Randy Rabney

 I’m often asked for snack ideas for kids (and adults). I’ve said this often and I’ll say it again, the most important thing when choosing snacks and meals is the quality of the ingredients. If you stay away from foods that are pre-packaged it’s easier to know what’s in the food. I recommend doing your best to look for foods that are organic, grown using organic practices or non-gmo. When using things that are pre-packaged like crackers or even nut butters and bread, for example, be sure to read the label and avoid ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, MSG and artificial colors.

When choosing snacks think about the purpose of it, are they hungry and waiting for dinner to be ready shortly or will it need to keep them going for a while, like a small meal? Here are some of my favorites that are great-tasting, nourishing and easy to prepare:
  1. Nuts and dried fruit. This is a standard. It’s easy to keep in your bag or the car. I go heavier on the nuts than the dried fruit. It contains fat, protein, carbohydrate plus vitamins and minerals and the dried fruit can satisfy a sweet tooth. Figure out what your child’s favorite is and keep it available. You can even add a very small amount of high quality chocolate covered fruit to the mix.
  2. Roasted Vegetables. These are great fresh from the oven, cold or room temperature. My son especially likes cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale chips prepared this way. It’s a great snack for right before dinner when they are saying “I’m hungry, when will dinner be ready?” For cauliflower and brussel sprouts, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Toss either vegetable with a little extra virgin olive oil and sea salt (just enough to lightly coat). Cook until the vegetables are brown (this brings out the sweetness) and tender to the tip of a knife. For kale, use the same method but cook at 300 degrees, check for crispiness after 10 minutes, you want it crisp like a chip but not brown, do not overcook.
  3. Hummus, Black Bean and White Bean Dips with Raw Vegetables and/or Crackers all make great snacks. I like to make my own so I can season them the way I like them and know what kind of oil is in them. If you are buying them already prepared look for products made with olive oil, avoid products that contain soybean or canola oil (non-organic soy and canola oil are likely to be GMO).
  4. Shrimp Cocktail is also a great snack. Instead of traditional cocktail sauce, try mashing an avocado with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and some sea salt and use that as a dip for the shrimp. If you do use traditional cocktail sauce, make it yourself with ketchup and horseradish, you can control the spiciness that way. Also, many brands of store bought prepared cocktail contain high fructose corn syrup (corn is another food that if not organic, is likely to be GMO) which should be avoided.
  5. Sliced cheese, turkey or roast beef rolled around a slice of avocado. When possible choose meats from grass-fed animals and grass-fed raw cheese. Please make sure that your meats and dairy products are at a minimum antibiotic and hormone-free. If you’d like serve some brown rice or other high quality crackers on the side.
  6. A Small Plate with some good quality cheese (organic or hormone-free), crackers and a piece of apple or some other fruit.
  7. Whole grain or sprouted bread, toast, crackers or sliced apple with nut butter. This is fast and easy, if using bread, toast or crackers, you can combine it with a small amount of raw honey or some organic fruit spread sweetened with fruit juice.
Action Steps
  1. Think about what you typically choose for a snack. Is it something that just fills you up or is it something that also nourishes you?
  2. Take a look at the ingredients in some of your pre-packaged foods. Do you know what they all are? Do you know how they impact your health in the long and short term?
  3. Make a decision to make one small improvement, if one needs to be made. The next time you want a snack, try something from my list or create one of your own using my guidelines.
Randy Rabney is a Food Lover, Chef, Board Certified Health Counselor and Parent. She offers a variety of programs and services to teach people of varying ages how to prepare great tasting food quickly and easily and to understand the value of high quality ingredients so that people enjoy eating healthy food. You can find Randy at She's also always happy to talk with you if you think that she can help. Feel free to contact her at to set up a call. 

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