Shirley Hall is the author of
THE NEW CARIBBEAN HOME
Getting control of what we eat can start and win the battle with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Health enemies lurk on almost every supermarket shelf in the guise of processed 'fun/snack' food. Snacking is usually eating without a plan. We ingest too many carbohydrates with sugar, salt, and preservatives that cause weight gain and lead to other severe health disorders. Processed snacks provide little protein. Instead plan ahead, munch on healthy fruit and vegetables, and fight fatigue.
As an example, just in America last year more than $20 billion was spent on snack food! Between-meal eating is often blamed for the obesity epidemic. There is new evidence that snacking, when done properly, may actually be good for you. It's also a great way to fit in nutrient-rich foods and regulate your mood.
A snack is a portion often smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals. Everyone likes a snack, but how do you determine if they are healthy and nutritious? The best way to test any processed snack is to carefully read the nutrition facts label on the package. A packaged food may be labelled 'all natural' yet that doesn't mean it's healthful. All natural juice drinks may have extra sugar added, and are high in calories with little nutritive benefit. Granola bars may contain certain vitamins and nutrients, yet combined with a great deal of fat, including dangerous trans fat, plus a lot of sugar.
Processed snacks usually contain a high amount of fats, sugar, and salt with a multitude of preservatives. High intake of salt/sodium is the main cause of hypertension/ high blood pressure. Sodium reduces your body's absorption and use of calcium. Excess calcium and sodium causes your kidneys to work harder. Salty food consumers are more likely to develop kidney stones and generally have poorer kidney function. One of the main problems with sugar is it raises the insulin level, inhibiting the release of growth hormones, which in turn weakens the immune system. Sugar can upset the body's mineral balance and contribute to hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties, and crankiness in children. Sugar can reduce helpful high density cholesterol (HDLs) and promote an elevation of harmful cholesterol (LDLs). Sugar can increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
Good snacking as with eating habits begin at home and with prior preparation. Everyone's stomach occasionally craves something. It can be simple as a glass of skim milk, or a soya based drink. Calcium will curb hunger much longer than a soda. Get calcium and also soothe your chocolate cravings. An eight-ounce mug of hot chocolate has only 140 calories with 3 grammes of fat, while the average chocolate bar has 230 calories with 13 grammes of fat. The best chocoholic option is dark chocolate containing at least seventy per cent cocoa solids. It is a good source of antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, which are the type found in green tea and red wine. And while chocolate is high in fat, it consists of saturated types including stearic, palmitic, and oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil. Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure, and has twice the magnesium and more iron than milk chocolate. Plus chocolate makes us feel good!
The best way to eat healthy is by advance preparation. Make your own granola/trail mix and control the ingredients. Combine one cup whole-grain rolled oat cereal with a quarter cup chopped nuts as almonds, walnuts, or unsalted peanuts, and a quarter cup raisins for a healthy trail mix. Fresh fruit and vegetables should always be available. Keep the servings in bags in the fridge, ready to grab and go. Packaged trail mix may have as much as 700 calories per cup.
Peanut butter in moderation is a great snack with biscuits or bananas. One tablespoon of peanut butter has about 90 calories. It's the perfect combination of protein, fat, carbohydrate, and lots of fibre. While peanut butter is high in fat, it's the unsaturated (or the 'good') kind — and peanuts are a great source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Peanut butter is also rich in protein. It provides energy while helping to keep you feeling full.
Research shows that nuts help lower cholesterol and may help to lower the risk of coronary heart disease. Most nuts are high in monounsaturated fats and offer an excellent source of protein and vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc, selenium, and folate. Almonds and other nuts provide an excellent source of vitamin E. A one-ounce serving of nuts contains between 160 and 200 calories, most of which come from the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Nuts are also very high in dietary fibre, and are one of the best plant sources of protein. Stick to a one-ounce serving (approximately 160 calories); that's roughly 28 peanuts, 23 almonds, or 49 pistachios.
Eat nuts with red grapes to up your fibre and fruit intake, and that's got to be more than enough reasons to enjoy this healthy snack. Grapes can be washed and frozen to add something extra as a snack. Freezing brings out the sweetness. Grapes are rich in resveratrol, one powerful anti-oxidant, which has been found to protect against cancers of colon and prostate, coronary heart disease, and degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer's disease and viral/ fungal infections. Downside is that grapes, apples, and pears usually get sprayed with a lot of pesticide chemicals.
This versatile childhood favourite has plenty of protein and fibre. Air-popped popcorn can fulfill the dream of a healthy snack with the low calories. Depending on how it is prepared and cooked, some consider it to be a health food while others caution against it for a variety of reasons. Naturally low in calories, popcorn is a healthful whole-grain snack. The moisture inside the kernels turns to steam when the popcorn is heated; creating pressure that builds until the kernel explodes. Each kernel expands to about 17 times its size as it pops. One serving of air-popped popcorn has thirty calories, and usually when snacking during a home DVD we cram about five cups. A serving of homemade popcorn popped in oil has 165 calories. A serving of air-popped popcorn has 1.5 g of fat, compared to a serving of oil-popped popcorn with 9 g of fat. Popcorn also has about 4 g of fibre, 22 g carbohydrates and 3g of protein per serving. Popcorn, like other good sources of fiber, helps keep your digestive system healthy. Adults are recommended to consume 14 grammes of fibre for every 1,000 calories eaten.
A quick almost unknown tremendously healthy snack is a baked sweet potato. Scrub a medium-sized sweet potato, cut in half with the skin remaining. Slice to make cubes letting the remaining side cling to the skin. Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, soy or ginger sauce; whatever you chose. Fit halves back together as best as possible. Wrap with a damp paper towel and microwave at full power for about three minutes. Once it's done, carefully (because it should be hot!) open the halves sweet potato and remove chunks with spoon, fork, or toothpick.
Bananas are a great snack fresh and are very versatile. For a taste treat bananas can be dipped in peanut butter and then rubbed with raisins and chopped nuts and then eaten fresh or frozen whole or in chunks. Peel several very ripe bananas, break them into one inch pieces, and freeze the pieces in a sealed plastic bag for snacking later. For an energy burst eat bananas because of their glucose and fructose content. The natural sugars are quickly digested and become energy, providing an almost immediate boost. In addition, they contain 15 per cent of the daily requirement of potassium. This helps prevent workout-killing cramps at less than 150 calories.
Citrus: Grapefruit helps defend against everything from colds to heart disease and cancer; pink and red grapefruit also offer about thirty times more of the antioxidant vitamin A than their paler counterparts. For something different and less acidic, slice grapefruit and oranges one half inch thick. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and nutmeg and place in the toaster over or under the broiler until the slices turn brown. Allow to cool before beginning to snack. Do several slices at a time to have a supply when hunger hits. A whole grapefruit and orange have less than a hundred calories each.
Carrots sliced and chilled are a snacker's standby. Choose firm, bright-orange carrots without splits or cracks. The deeper the orange, the more beta-carotene present. Beta-carotene is fat-soluble. One cup of chopped carrots has 52 calories.
To snack healthy and live healthy you must understand the calories and additives of less healthy snacks. The lack of calorie awareness is a constant concern because of many diseases associated with being overweight or obese, which include cancers, are multiplying as are heart related diseases are on the increase.