By Dinar Yusufov
During our afternoon slump, on long homework-filled days, we typically go for snacks that can be very high in sugar. Whether it is beverages like smoothies, Frappuccinos, lattes, or foods, like Pop Tarts, flavored yogurt, granola bars, pudding cups, and even some cereals, a lot of our snack foods contain high amounts of sugar and sometimes we don’t even realize. A lot of people may also believe that sugar can give them the little boost of energy that they need to finish the day off. But, if we consume too much sugar through our snacks, we may get a sugar crash later in the day. This sugar crash can consist of headaches, tiredness, or even irritability.
A lot of food companies try to market their foods as being healthier, with lots of fiber or protein. But, they also contain lots of added sugar with that. One example of this is the Nature Valley Strawberry or Vanilla Yogurt Granola Bars. One bar of this granola bar contains 13 grams of sugar! A Sunrise Sunset smoothie from Tropical Smoothie that is made with strawberries, pineapples, mango & orange juice contains 76 grams of sugar. A Grande salted caramel mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream from Starbucks contains 69 grams of sugar. These “wake-up” drinks and snacks can actually be more hurtful than helpful.
If our snacking constantly consists of high-sugar foods, there can be some health implications. This may cause high blood triglyceride levels, and can contribute to inflammation and oxidative stress, which can become conditions of heart disease. Also, risk of tooth decay can increase. Sugar-rich foods, as well as sticky foods, take longer to dissolve in the mouth. Also, since sugar is a calorie-dense food, we get more calories when we eat foods high in sugar. Thus, weight gain and obesity make become a greater risk.
So, lets take a look at how to create healthier snacking habits that will be much more helpful than harmful to your body.
1. Pick more nutrient dense foods. Nutrient-dense foods contain more nutrients than calorie-dense foods. Some examples of this are fruits and vegetables (apples, celery, corn, mangoes, avocadoes, bananas). Basically, the possibilities could be endless. These foods help to keep you full longer, and they give you great nutrients!
2. Drink lots of water after snacking.
Drink water after your snacks, no matter what they are, can actually be beneficial. It will help you to feel full for much longer and also prevent tooth decay, if you do choose to consume a sugary snack. Also, it helps everything digest quicker.
3. Replace added sugars with natural sugars. This goes for all those snack foods that are marketed at various grocery stores. It is always a better idea to go for the more natural foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Some snack ideas that contain no added sugars are Skinny Pop (popcorn), Justin’s Almond Butter, and plain Greek yogurt, just to name a few. These foods that contain small amounts of added sugars are great because you avoid the unnecessary processed sugars and also avoid a sugar crash later in the day. Also, overtime, less consumption of foods with added sugar can decrease risk of heart disease, obesity and weight gain.
4. Substitute! When you can, try to find substitutes for your favorite snacks!
*Granola with plain Greek yogurt and your favorite fruit!
*Chocolate dipped bananas.
*Banana “ice-cream.” Freeze some bananas; throw them in a blender and you get an ice cream consistency. You can add chocolate chips, peanut butter, coconut flakes, or anything your heart desires to personalize it!
*Energy bites. Use dates and oats as your base, and then personalize it as you wish. (Coconut flakes, chocolate chips, maple syrup). The possibilities are really endless.
5. Stay mindful when snacking. To avoid overeating and high amounts of sugar in your snacks, remember to keep your snacks around 100 to 250 calories. Also, try to snack without any distractions so that you can really focus on what you’re eating. This can lead to less weight gain and more mindful and healthy eating habits throughout life.
Quick and Easy Snack recipe:
Pumpkin Spice Granola
• 2 cups rolled oats (Old Fashioned Oats)
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• 1 cup chopped almonds
• ½ cup packed brown sugar
• 1 cup pumpkin puree
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• ½ cup maple syrup
• 1½ tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats, walnuts, almonds and brown sugar. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients until well mixed. Then pour over the dry ingredients and toss/mix until the dry ingredients are wet. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and put in the oven.
3. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir the mixture to evenly bake.
4. Remove from the oven and allow cooling before transferring to a container.
5. Top with plain Greek yogurt and some pumpkin seeds and enjoy your fall cozy creation.