Healthy snacks can keep hunger at bay while providing essential nutrients and supporting weight control. The right ones also give us energy, keep our blood sugar balanced and help us maintain focus throughout the day.
In winter, however, when the weather is bleak and the nights are too long, the common tendency is to shelter in place with our favorite comfort foods. This is especially easy since Farmers Markets are less likely to be carrying as much fresh produce as we’re used to seeing in warmer months.
However, the healthier we eat in winter, the better we feel. The more “comfort food” we eat, the more sluggish, sleepy and hungry we tend to feel. So even though it may take a little more effort, the benefits are worth it. Below is our guide to 7 simple ways you can beat those comfort food cravings and snack healthy all winter long.
1. Turn to seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients. While summer fruits and vegetables such as peaches, watermelon, and tomatoes may not be as abundant, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that are readily available in the winter. According to Fruits and Veggies: More Matters, fruits such as oranges, tangerines, pears, and persimmons, along with vegetables such as Belgian endive, kale, and winter squash, are in season in winter months. They may even be higher quality than in summer.
2. Combine your nutrients.
Protein, fat, and carbohydrates are the three main sources of calories. Harvard School of Public Health suggests including at least two of those nutrients at each snack. These are some ideas:
- Bake slices of acorn squash, which is high in good carbohydrates, brushed with olive oil, which has heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
- Pack hard-boiled eggs, which are high in protein, with apples, which are high in good carbohydrates.
- Eat snack bars, such as Zing Bars, which contain healthy fat, protein, and fiber-rich carbs.
3. Pair high and low-calorie nutrient-dense foods.
Harvard School of Public Health also suggests including one low-calorie food, such as a fruit or vegetable, and one higher calorie, but still nutritious, option. Nuts, avocados, and peanuts, are high in fat and calories, but rich in nutrients such as fiber and antioxidant vitamins.
To try this high-low pairing, you could dip Belgian endive, a source of fiber and low in calories, into a vinaigrette made with herbs and flaxseed oil, a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.Try pairing apple slices with almond or peanut butter, or dip cauliflower florets into guacamole.
4. Plan ahead.
You can prepare many snacks ahead of time so you have no need to browse the vending machine or the nearest convenience store. These are some examples of make-ahead steps you can take in advance.
- Hard-boil eggs
- Wash and cut fruits and vegetables
- Cook some lean protein, such as chicken breast or shrimp
5. Always have healthy snacks on hand.
You may not have time to prepare fancy snacks, but you can always have them on hand. Zing Bars have ingredients such as cashew butter, peanuts, and dried fruit. You can stash them at work or home so you always have a healthy choice available. String cheese, yogurt, and canned or pouched tuna are other great foods to keep handy.
6. Watch your portions.
Even the healthiest of foods can cause weight gain if you eat too much. Watch portions of foods such as nuts and peanuts, which have about 200 calories per ounce. You can measure out your portions beforehand, and always avoid snacking from the bag. Satisfying snack bars like Zing Bars can help you with portion control.
7. Don’t get too hungry
When you get too hungry, you are more likely to dive for whatever is in sight, regardless of how healthy or unhealthy it may be. (We’ve all been there!) Instead of letting yourself get to the point where you are starving, eat when your hunger becomes moderate. That way, you can still have enough control to pass up the cookies and potato chips for a healthier choice.
What’s your personal trick for eating healthy during the winter? Take a peek at our flavors page and see if you can find a bar that curbs your comfort food cravings.