North America is under a snack attack — and the snacks are winning! Seems more and more of you are substituting grab-and-go foods for real meals.
In fact, snacking is up 15 percent as quick munching replaces breakfast, lunch or dinner for almost half of you. But finding healthy snack foods can be tough, which is one reason Americans ended up spending $48 billion a year on salty or sugary munchables, three times more than they spent on fruit and vegetables.
That’s a lot of buck for very little nutritional bang.
Now nothing replaces the nutritional and emotional benefits of a sit-down meal with the family, but everyone has to eat on the run occasionally.
So here’s how you can grab a “snack as a meal” that provides you with the fuel you need to do your best at work, school, home and play.
1. Make sure your snacky meals deliver what you need. Depriving yourself of fuel and nutrients in a snacky meal, then overeating to make up for it later, is a formula for weight gain and nutritional deficiencies.
That’s why it is important to make sure your “snack as a meal” provides 400 calories from a mix of protein (about 12 grams per meal for women; 15-18 for men) and complex carbs (from beans, fruits, whole grains and greens). That’ll give you the minerals and vitamins you need, too.
2. Stock your fridge, freezer and pantry with easy grab-and-go foods. Keep unsalted nuts, dried fruit without added sweeteners and nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew) on hand.
In the fridge, stock seasonal fruits and veggies you love, along with nonfat yogurt, hummus, low-fat cheese and whole-grain bread or small whole-grain pitas or tortilla wraps.
In the freezer, keep frozen fruit (strawberries, raspberries and mango chunks) and veggies (bags of frozen kale, edamame and peas). Keep countertop goodies like ground flax seeds, roasted sunflower or sesame seeds, bananas, tomatoes and avocados handy, too.
3. Breakfast snacking. Whirl up a smoothie in 30 seconds to take on your commute.
Combine fresh or frozen fruit, yogurt, kale, unsweetened almond or soy milk and a little flax seed. Toss together a half-ounce of nuts and a half-ounce of dried fruit in a baggie; eat it with a piece of fresh fruit.
Or spread almond butter on a whole-grain tortilla, top with banana slices, sprinkle with raisins and cinnamon, then roll and go!
4. Lunch snacking. Put an easy-open pouch of tuna in water, pre-washed greens, avocado chunks and a drizzle of dressing made from olive oil and lemon juice into a tightly sealed container.
Mash beans on a tortilla, top with tomato, avocado and cheese, fold it up and tuck into a sandwich bag.
Toss eat-and-run sides into your lunch bag, too, such as fresh fruit, baby carrots, red pepper and zucchini strips (cut in advance and keep in your fridge.) You can enjoy it at your desk if, and only if, you make a point of standing up and walking around every hour for at least five minutes.
5. Dinner snacking. Not home at dinnertime? Try this make-ahead snack: Zucchini chips. Blot thinly sliced zucchini rounds with a paper towel; toss with a little olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, cool, then re-bake at 350 degrees for extra crunch. Store in individual-size zip-lock baggies for portability. Enjoy them with grab-n-go broiled chicken tenders, seasoned with sriracha or a nonfat yogurt dill and cucumber sauce.
6. Just want a between mealtime boost? Your best bet is a half-ounce of nuts plus an apple, orange, pear, a cup of berries or sliced veggies.
And here’s something different. Mix 1/2 cup almond butter with 1/2 cup of puffed quinoa and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, then roll into marble-size balls. Store in the refrigerator, in a container lined with parchment paper. The next time you reach in for a snack, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.