Don't Sweat It: Six Easy, Healthy Summer Snacks

Toss These Treats in Your Tote and Go!

From the WebMD Archives

People snack; that's a fact. And frankly, there's nothing wrong with that. If you're trying to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're comfortable, you usually end up eating smaller meals plus a couple of snacks in between. Make the most from your snacks this summer by choosing foods that contribute nutritional value and fiber without lots of calories.

Soluble Fiber Gives Satisfaction

Be sure your snacks include foods rich in soluble fiber, which leaves the stomach slowly and make you feel satisfied longer. Here are some examples:

  • Peas and beans.
  • Oats and oat bran.
  • Barley.
  • Some fruits: apples, peaches, citrus, mango, plums, kiwi, pears, berries.
  • Some vegetables: artichokes, celery root, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, acorn squash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, green peas, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, beets.

There are basically three types of calories: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. All of the digestible carbohydrate we eat converts to glucose, which our bodies use for energy, as does about half the protein and 10% of the fat in our diets. Carbohydrate, protein, and fat have their peak effects on blood sugar -- and thus our energy and satisfaction levels -- at different times after a meal:

  • For simple sugars (like table sugar and white flour), the peak effect comes 15 to 30 minutes after a meal.
  • For complex carbohydrates (like whole grains, fruits and vegetables), it's one to 1 1/2 hours afterward.
  • For protein, it's three to four hours later.
  • For fat, it's about three hours later.

So for energy that sticks around a while, choose a snack with a little of everything: complex carbohydrates to provide glucose an hour or so later, plus some protein and fat to slow digestion down and kick in some glucose further down the line.

Here are six fun summertime snacks that fit the bill:

  • Trail mix (without chocolate, which melts in the heat) is great because you can pack it in your beach bag, your car, or wherever your summer plans take you, and it's ready to eat when you are. Dried fruit gives you carbohydrates, while the nuts nudge protein and fat into the mix. (1/4 cup of trail mix without chocolate comes to around 150 calories, 3 grams protein, 6 grams fat, and 3 grams fiber)

  • Lowfat yogurt mixed with reduced-fat granola and fresh fruit. The yogurt, whether plain or flavored, gives you carbs, protein and a little fat, while the granola contributes complex carbs and some fat and protein. The fresh fruit has fiber and good-quality carbohydrates. (1/3 cup of each adds up to a snack with 196 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 8 grams protein, and 4 grams fiber)

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Four More Fun Snacks

  • A "whole grain" power bar plus a banana. The power bar has simple and complex carbs, plus, depending on the brand, a boost of protein, fat and fiber. The banana contributes carbohydrate and fiber, with a touch of fat and protein. (This snack offers around 330 calories, 11 grams protein, 2 grams fat, and 5 grams fiber.)

  • A squeezable tube of yogurt, popped into the freezer and frozen. (Each of these edible ice cubes contains around 80 calories, 2 grams fat, 11 grams sugar, and no fiber.)
  • Portable fruit. Many fruits travel well in your car or briefcase. A 4 ounce serving of fruit offers fiber, vitamins and minerals as well as carbohydrates. Fruits with a low glycemic load -- basically, a number that indicates how quickly your blood sugar goes up after you eat them -- will keep you feeling full longer. These include:

    • Cherries.
    • Grapefruit.
    • Kiwi.
    • Oranges.
    • Peaches, fresh or canned in juice.
    • Pears.
    • Plums.
    • Cantaloupe.
    • Strawberries.

    Balance your fruit snack with an ounce of reduced-fat cheese, 1/8 cup of nuts, or an ounce of lean lunch meat. (4 ounces of fruit plus an ounce of reduced fat cheese = 155 calories, 5 grams of fat and 8 grams protein, 3 grams fiber; 4 ounces of fruit plus 1/8 cup of mixed nuts = 173 calories, 9 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein, 5 grams fiber; 4 ounces of fruit plus 1 ounce of turkey breast = 108 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 5.5 grams protein, and 3 grams of fiber).

  • A fresh green salad. You'd be surprised how satisfying a salad is on a hot afternoon. You can even pick up some nice side salads with reduced-fat dressing at fast-food restaurants like McDonald's and Wendy's for a dollar! (If you get the side salad at Wendy's and use half of a packet of the reduced-fat ranch dressing, your snack will come to around 85 calories, 4 grams fat, 2.5 grams protein, and 3.5 grams of fiber. If you get a Caesar Side salad from Wendy's and use half a packet of the low-fat honey mustard dressing, your snack will be 125 calories, 5.5 grams fat, 1 gram protein, and 1 gram of fiber.)

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