are you snacking smart?

May 25, 2009

One of the most important aspects of sticking to a healthy diet is having no-brainer, good-for you snacks on hand at all times. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable is key to maintaining optimal energy levels between meals and controlling cravings, so the ideal snack is rich in fiber and low on the glycemic index.  Luckily, whole, plant-based foods are just the ticket.

I always keep a stash of cashews (raw unsalted!) and fruit on me when I’m on the go.  Dried fruit can spike your blood sugar and should be eaten in moderation, so having a handful of nuts along with them is a much better option and keeps things interesting.  One of my favorite snacks is simply tucking a Brazil nut or almond into a pitted date – it tastes like pecan pie!  You can pre-prep these and put them in a re-sealable (reusable) bag to carry with you.  They’ll keep well in an office desk and in your car, too.  Use common sense in especially hot weather, but you’ll probably want fresh fruit during those occasions anyway.

When shopping for dried fruit, read the labels closely to make sure you’re not buying a bag of preservatives.  Most health-food stores stock sulphur-free dried fruit; you just have to look for it.  You can also make up a batch of my Trail Less Traveled Mix and change up the dried fruit or leave it out altogether.  Dried cranberries are a nice variation; just make sure they’re not marked “sugar infused.”

While dried fruit is certainly handy, Mother Nature does know best; and fruit eaten in its natural form is always superior.  After all, dried fruit doesn’t grow on trees and is high on the glycemic index because it’s missing the necessary water that nature packages beautifully in fresh fruit.  The same principle applies to juicing: the fibrous pulp in whole fruit keeps the sugars moving nice and slowly through the body rather than causing a rapid rise in blood glucose.  Therefore, save for an emergency energy lift, it’s much better to have a blended smoothie than stripped fruit, a.k.a. juice.  Green juice, on the other hand, is a great, quick way to get a ton of alkalizing phytochemicals into the body with minimal sugar.  Still, I much prefer my luscious smoothies!  In fact, I don’t even own a juicer.

The high water content in fresh, whole fruit not only results in a lower concentration of sugar; it also means you’ll feel fuller faster and stay full longer.  Fresh fruit digests very quickly, causing other foods (especially fats) to sit in the stomach and ferment.  More on food combining in a future post, but for now just remember to try to eat fruit on an empty stomach and at least 20 minutes before a fat, starch or protein.  Berries, plums and apples are especially low on the glycemic index.  Bananas take a little longer to digest (about 45 minutes). They’re also perfectly portable and my on-the-go fruit of choice.  Make sure they’re ripe; lots of brown spots and no green tops are good.

Speaking of portability, I treasure my Ziploc bags because my mom sends them to me from the US, but I only need about a box or two a year because I simply wash them out and re-use them.  I use and reuse the larger-sized bags to freeze fruit for making smoothies.  Similarly, I rarely buy stuff in plastic containers – preferring the bulk bins at the health-food store – but when I do I make sure to wash them out and put them to work storing nuts, sprouts, snacks and leftovers.

On a similar note, I’ve just returned from a family reunion in Madrid and will be posting tips soon for healthier traveling along with a summery Spanish recipe, so please stay tuned!  Also, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  Happy low-sugar snacking, amigos.  Hasta la proxima.

Bookmark and Share

Comments are open.

post a comment