Snacking between meals is a good way to keep your energy and blood sugar on an even keel throughout the day. Our appetite tends to decrease as we age, and healthy snacks can help fill in any nutritional gaps caused by consuming fewer calories.
Try these ideas for easy, healthy snacking:
Fruit. Bananas are the ultimate easy snack food and they are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that helps build muscle and maintain normal heart function. Purchase only a small bunch at a time because they ripen quickly. You can store bananas in the refrigerator to make them last longer; the skin will turn darker, but the fruit inside will stay fresher longer. For a healthy treat, slice a banana and serve with a dollop of peanut butter and a handful of granola. Grapes are an easy fruit to keep on hand because they require minimal preparation. To store them for easy snacking, just wash, pop them off the stems, and refrigerate them in snack-sized portions. Berries are another great choice. They are frequently found on lists of so-called “super-foods” because they are rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Berries freeze well and are wonderful on their own, over a bowl of oatmeal, or layered with yogurt and granola to make a parfait. Citrus keeps well for several weeks in the refrigerator. Cut a grapefruit in half and drizzle with a bit of honey or sugar substitute for a low-calorie treat.
Vegetables. Raw vegetables are the healthiest choice. The key to making vegetables an easy snack food is to prepare them in advance. Cut up cucumber and carrot sticks ahead of time; serve them later with balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt. Cauliflower and broccoli can also be washed and cut up ahead of time; if you don’t like them raw, try steaming them lightly. Premade hummus is a convenient, healthy dip – it comes in several flavors and is a good protein source. Baked sweet potatoes are a healthier option than regular potatoes and make a satisfying snack. Just cut in half, sprinkle with olive oil and salt, and bake or microwave until tender. Tomatoes, especially when they are at the height of their season, are a versatile and delicious snack option. Slice and toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, or serve them with a side of cottage cheese.
Beans. Beans are packed with protein and fiber, making them a great choice for a light meal or midafternoon snack. Canned beans are convenient and store well, but be sure to rinse them thoroughly before using to reduce sodium content. Heat black beans and serve them with chopped tomato or salsa, a sprinkle of cheese, and some sliced avocado. Make an easy white bean dip by blending one can of white beans (such as cannellini) with ¼ cup of olive oil and kosher salt to taste. Add warm water to reach the consistency you desire. This dip can be made ahead of time and will keep in the fridge for a few days. Serve with pita bread, vegetables, or tortilla chips.
Cheese and crackers. The classic cheese and crackers is an excellent source of calcium. Try a different kind of cheese each time you shop to add variety to your snacks. You can even slice cheese up ahead of time and store in a covered container in the fridge to make snacking easier. Choose whole wheat or rye crackers for a fiber boost.
Rice cakes. These inexpensive, low-calorie bases can be topped with so many things. Try cream cheese and thinly sliced strawberries, a thin layer of peanut butter and sliced bananas or jam, or marinara sauce and melted mozzarella.