Ask Elesha Kelleher, LDN, RD, MPH
The Lesser Evils: What Choices to Make When Choosing Snacks on the Go
In a perfect world, we would be able to stop anywhere and prepare a healthy snack that includes a little protein, fiber and heart-healthy fat. But in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we are often left to grab a snack on the go when that afternoon hunger sets in.
When you’re out and about and not prepared, there are smarter choices for snacks you can purchase in vending machines and convenience stores.
Healthier Snack Alternatives
A few healthier selections in some vending machines:
- SunChips®. A good amount of fiber and only 140 calories.
- Nuts. Higher in calories than some other choices, but the protein and heart-healthy fat will keep you fuller longer. Peanuts and/or sunflower seeds are usually available in most vending machines.
- M&Ms® Peanut or Snickers®. Not that these are exactly healthy, but at least you will get a little more protein and fiber in these candy selections. Much better than even lower calorie choices like Twizzlers or pretzels, which provide calories from sugar or refined white flour only, making you very hungry shortly after. If you can stop at just one, keep “fun-sized” packs of M&M Peanut or Snickers at home. This will satisfy a sweet tooth at only about 100 calories each.
- Smartfood® Reduced-Fat Popcorn. Only 120 calories with a decent dose of fiber.
- Nature Valley Granola Bars®. Not my favorite, but a better alternative to some of the other candy and chip choices.
Convenience stores also offer some of these items, and often carry protein bars as well.
What to Avoid at All Costs
Some of the worst vending machine choices in terms of calories, sugar and fat include: fruit-filled pies; Pop-Tarts®; any Fritos® or Doritos® variety of chips; Twix® or 3 Musketeers® bar.
Other On-the-Go Treats
Smoothies can be a healthy snack. Be sure you choose one with fresh fruit (not in syrup), protein powder and no added sugars such as Turbinado or honey.
If it’s frozen yogurt you fancy, order a small or mini size. Top with fresh fruit and/or nuts (avoid ones in syrup).
Guidelines to Follow
If you’re watching your weight, a very general guideline for an appropriate calorie level for snacks is 150-200 for women and 200-300 for men. Calorie levels depend upon current height, weight and activity level.
Healthy snacks every four hours or so help keep you energized by stabilizing blood sugar. Plus, snacking revs your metabolism so it works more efficiently to burn calories. Try to include at least one or two snacks in your daily routine.
You’ve got questions? Our nutritionist, Elesha Kelleher, LDN, RD, MPH has the answers. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org