By Alia Hoyt
Dog-eared Black Friday advertisements? Check. Gift wish list? Check. Detailed hour-by-hour itinerary? Check. But are you building any time in for healthy, energizing snacks? Probably not. On Black Friday we’re usually so focused on shopping ‘til we drop that we come dangerously close to doing just that, thanks to low blood sugar levels from not eating frequently enough. Some people see snacking as extra calories and therefore taboo, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, regular snacks and meals have actually been shown to help maintain weight loss over time. It’s also common knowledge that the hungrier we get, the more we binge -- which often leads to a serious case of food guilt.
I’m pretty sure you don’t want to do a face-plant in front of several hundred other rabid bargain shoppers, so check out this list of delicious and portable snacks that’ll keep your energy high and your blood sugar at normal, happy levels. Whichever treat(s) you choose, remember that portion size matters, so pre-sort them into baggies yourself, or look for healthy snack packs. “If you bring a large portion with you you’re going to be much more likely to eat more,” says upwave reviewer Caroline Kaufman, MS, RDN. Kaufman also suggests choosing snacks with a variety of energy-boosting nutrients, such as fiber, lean protein and healthy fat. “Combining at least two of the three is important,” she explains.
Trail mix is a beloved snack because it’s easy, tasty and can be tailored specifically to suit your needs. Nuts are popular inclusions, thanks to their flavor and well-documented protein punch and cardiovascular benefits. Whole-grain cereals, dried fruit and even miniature chocolate chips often get tossed in for sweetness. “Mix, shake it up and scoop a half cup into small, snack-sized bags,” suggests Kaufman. “You can also try adding some other things to make it more interesting, like popcorn, pumpkin seeds or wasabi peas.”
Forget peas and carrots. In my opinion, the soul mates of the food world are peanut butter and jelly. It’s the ideal snack, or even portable lunch, if you do it right. One-hundred percent whole wheat bread is packed with fiber and antioxidants, and recent research has shown that protein-rich peanut butter helps regulate blood glucose levels. For the healthiest possible version, Kaufman recommends choosing a peanut, nut or seed butter that does not include partially hydrogenated oils (fancy way of saying "trans fats") and select a jelly that lists fruit as the first ingredient.
Quinoa Breakfast Bars
Just about everyone in the nutritional world is currently in love with this powerful super-grain, even if we’re not always sure how to pronounce it. If you’re intrigued by quinoa, which is full of energy-boosting protein, oil and healthy fats, but aren’t sure where to start, whip up some naturally low-in-sugar quinoa breakfast bars for a filling, nutritious start to your day.
Everyone knows that cheese is full-to-bursting with bone-strengthening calcium. The dairy product is also an excellent source of our old pal protein, although you will need to keep it cool if you’re going to be out for more than a couple of hours. Fortunately, that’s easy to achieve with a small lunch sack and a frozen ice pack.
Pumpkin Oat Balls
Far less fattening than pumpkin pie, pumpkin oat balls are easy to make and packed with energy-boosting protein and fiber, which is exactly what you need to keep you up and energized on Black Friday. Canned pumpkin and oats are naturally high in fiber, and walnuts are rich in protein. Flaxseed is loaded with both nutrients. So even though these treats taste like dessert, they make the perfect snack any time you start feeling worn down by all those fantastic deals you're finding.
We already talked about nuts as part of a trail mix, but almonds, pecans and other nut options are energizing snacks all on their own. In fact, recent research found that people who consume almonds as regular snacks enjoy reduced hunger levels. Plus, nuts are a cinch to pre-portion and carry with you. If you’re feeling fancy, try an easy, flavorful recipe for roasted almonds, which will make your house smell amazing (in addition to being delicious).
No matter how crazy the crowds are, try to work in a few minutes to properly eat, enjoy and acknowledge your snack. “Go to a seating area, sit down for five minutes and eat your snack mindfully,” suggests Kaufman. “Listen to your hunger and fullness cues. It’s good for your mind and your body, too.”