I’m trying to lose 5 pounds. Like everyone else, I’ve been spending a lot of time inside and have been more sedentary than usual.
Regardless, I still get hungry and want snacks — and I’m not alone. A survey found 97% of people snacked at least once a week. People snack out of boredom, because of cravings, or because their belly just can’t wait till dinner.
There’s really nothing wrong with having a snack — if you grab the right ones. A lot of the snacks that call your name in the grocery store could be high in fat or have way too much sugar. With so many snacks labeled as “junk food,” it may surprise you that there are plenty of choices that are not only OK to eat, but that have a lot of health benefits as well.
Here are a few options you can try that you can feel good about:
Popcorn is one food that can run the gamut when it comes to health. If you grab a bucket of this snack at the movie theater, don’t bother telling yourself that it’s good for you. In fact, that stuff could have up to 1,200 calories and is often full of saturated fat. Don’t let that get you down on popcorn, however. On its own, popcorn is quite healthy. A cup of air-popped popcorn has 30 calories, a gram of fiber, and no fat. This whole grain also has folate, iron and several other vitamins and minerals.
“Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet, and popcorn can be a great way to get more of them,” says Dan Daly, administrator at Lawton Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “A good way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your popcorn is to make it yourself and leave out unhealthy toppings.”
Dark chocolate can be a bit of an acquired taste, but it might be a little more enticing when you consider its benefits. Dark chocolate contains heart-healthy flavonols that can lower blood pressure. This chocolate also contains iron, magnesium, zinc and other nutrients. Don’t overdo it, though. Dark chocolate has saturated fat and about 150 calories per ounce, so just treat yourself to a little bit at a time.
Like chocolate, nuts are high in fat. While you can’t snack on nuts all day long, a small amount will give you a lot of bang for your buck. The unsaturated fat in nuts is good for you and can lower bad cholesterol levels. Nuts also have fiber, which helps keep your heart healthy and makes you feel full faster. Different nuts have similar nutritional values, so pick whatever kind you prefer. Just skip added sugar, salt and fat.
You know fruits are full of nutrients and a good part of a balanced diet. If you’re careful, dried fruit can give you many of the same benefits. Some dried fruit that you buy at the store has a lot of added sugar, so be sure to read the label. It is also easy to eat a lot more when you are munching on the dried version, so watch your portions.
If you haven’t tried snacking with hummus yet, this could be a good time to try it out. This versatile snack can be a spread or a dip for just about anything you want. Hummus is made with chickpeas, which can help lower cholesterol levels. Chickpeas also are high in protein, fiber and iron.
Snacking isn’t bad for you if you focus on finding foods that do more than satisfy your sweet or salty tooth. Trade in those potato chips and cookies for some tasty treats that fill your belly and boost your health at the same time.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.