So many of us are on the go all the time that we can forget to pack healthy snacks to see us through those occasional cravings and get us, and our kids, through the day. When we forget to plan ahead, this is what leads us to turn to vending machines and convenience stores for quick fixes, like potato chips, soda and even candy bars — each one a haven for additives and preservatives that are harmful to our health.
When you feed your body these harmful snacks, it's just like pouring sand down the drain. Your body, like the plumbing in your house, doesn't know how to get rid of the intrusion. Before you know it, these obstructions are polluting each cell and organ in our bodies, causing it to run slow, putting us at risk for diseases and viruses. The good news is that we don't have to put sand down the drain. There's nothing that says snacks can't be healthy. With that in mind, here are my five favorite healthy snacks that are not only excellent for you, but contain no added preservatives.
1. Organic Yogurt with Fruit
With just a little bit of planning, it's easy to have this great snack ready and waiting in the refrigerator for when you feel like something cool and refreshing. I like to add blueberries, goji berries or apples to the organic yogurt. Yogurt is a great source of both protein and calcium and it's easier for us to digest than milk. Other benefits of yogurt include its remarkable ability to boost our immune systems and reduce yeast infections. When looking for brands of yogurt, keep an eye out for organic varieties which are free of antibiotics and come from grass-fed cows.
Packed with magnesium and phytochemicals — which are great for preventing cancer — almonds are the perfect snack when you're driving or keeping an eye on the little ones during soccer practice. Almonds are great for snacking. Just 20-25 almonds contain as much calcium as ¼ cup of milk. Did I mention they also give you tons of energy? Well, they do. Before chowing down on this power nut, make sure you find raw almonds, and not ones which have been heated or roasted, since these processes take away from the essential nutrients of the almond. If you find you have a hard time digesting almonds — the outer layer of almonds contains an acid that sometimes makes it hard for people to digest — you can always soak them overnight in either water or green tea.
3. Organic Apples with Almond Butter
There's something to that old adage about an apple a day keeping the doctor away. Of course, when you add almond butter to your apple, it turns a good fruit into great snack. Make sure the apples you're buying are organic, since conventional apples tend to contain the most pesticides. Apples are full of fiber, can help clean your teeth and have been known to help lower cholesterol. When you add almond butter, you have a powerful energy-filled snack, complete with protein to leave you feeling full until your next meal.
4. Green Smoothies
Green smoothies are one of my favorite healthy snacks. They are full of nutrients and vital enzymes, and they even make a great breakfast. To make your green smoothie, simply blend together some of your favorite fruits — like a banana, a cup of strawberries and an apple — with a few leaves of lettuce, spinach and an avocado. Toss in eight ounces of water and blend. The result is a yummy green drink that will get you through your day. When I have a green smoothie in the morning, I never hit that 3 p.m. wall that tends to drain some people towards the end of the work day.
5. Dark Chocolate
Yes, it’s okay to eat chocolate. I love chocolate and eat it every week. According to Mary Engler, a registered nurse and PhD at the University of California, eating 1.6 ounces of chocolate every day has many benefits. For example, it can reduce the risk of blood clots, lower our levels of bad cholesterol and it contains serotonin to help boost our mood. Even better, it's an aphrodisiac. But not all chocolate is created equal. It's best to stick to the purest dark chocolate. Other varieties of chocolate have been processed and, as a result, have lost as many as half of the beneficial flavanoids that can be found in dark chocolate. So when you're craving chocolate, remember: don't be afraid of the dark.
The night before a busy day, pack some of the above snacks, eat a bit every few hours and notice a difference in your energy levels.
Image: Harsha K R