According to a recent Mintel survey 86 percent of respondents consider fresh fruit to be a healthy snack, followed by veggies at 73 percent, and nuts at 71 percent. But 12 percent consider ice cream to be a healthy snack, and 9 percent believe cookies qualify.
There is no standard definition for the word healthy, but in my private practice I sometimes find that if a food has even one healthy attribute it may be given a health halo. For example, the other day a potential client said, “My diet is really healthy.” But when we examined her patterns she wasn’t meeting the recommended minimum for fruits and veggies, many of her grains were refined, and her daily ‘healthy’ snack habit often included foods like oatmeal cookies (healthy in her mind because of the oats), ice cream or pudding (healthy in her mind because of the calcium), and smoothies made with sorbet (healthy in her mind because of the fruit). Certainly these foods do provide some key nutrients, but because they’re bundled with some other not so healthy stuff, like sugar and animal fat, I view them as occasional splurges.
For an everyday snack to earn my ‘healthy’ stamp of approval it should provide a significant amount of nutrients your body needs for optimal health, without the unhealthy “extras.” Here are five quick and easy combos that fit the bill:
A mixture of 0% (nonfat) plain organic Greek yogurt (or plain non-dairy yogurt), toasted rolled oats, fresh fruit (like berries or a minced apple or pear), sliced almonds, and a touch of spice, like cinnamon or fresh grated ginger.
Two soft whole corn tortillas filled with fresh sliced fruit (such as mango, pineapple, sliced strawberries, or seedless tangerine sections), shelled organic edamame, and sliced avocado, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
Made from unsweetened frozen fruit (like pitted cherries or berries), organic skim milk or non-dairy milk, oat or barley flakes, all natural nut butter, and a dash of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, etc.).
100 percent whole-grain crackers, a small wedge of organic cheese, or a side of marinated beans (like broad beans, chick peas, or lentils), Mediterranean olives and organic grapes.
One brown (or black) rice California roll, seared tuna, or edamame, and a side of seaweed salad.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.