Snacks That Are Healthier Than They Seem
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Not all peanut butters are created equal. Some are made from only peanuts and salt (which is what you want), while others are a combo of peanuts, sugar and a variety of oils (including hydrogenated fats). Reduced-fat peanut butter may seem like the healthier choice, but the fat is oftentimes replaced with more sugar or preservatives. Peanut butter contains both hunger-satisfying protein and healthy fat. It also has a high antioxidant content, with loads of vitamin E. When snacking on peanut butter, stick with 1-tablespoon portions to dip fruit in or spread on whole-grain crackers.
Popcorn originally gained a bad reputation thanks to movie theaters frying popcorn in coconut oil and folks drowning it under buckets of artery-clogging butter. But corn is a whole grain and, when air-popped, it contains about 30 calories per cup along with 5 percent of the recommended daily dose of fiber. Sprinkle with a touch of sea salt or a drizzle of olive oil and you've got a smart snack.
Dried fruit's bad name came about because of its high sugar content. When fruit is dried, the sugar and other nutrients become more condensed, making portion control important. (Seven apricot halves or 2 tablespoons of raisins or cranberries have the same number of calories as a fresh pear or apple.) That said, dried fruit offers an easy way to add fiber and antioxidants to your diet, plus it's a good alternative when fresh varieties are out of season.
A cup of hot cocoa made with low-fat or nonfat milk is a wonderful way to satisfy a chocolate craving, get a dose of vitamin D and help meet the recommended daily servings of dairy. The milk also contains hunger-fighting protein, which helps keep people satisfied until the next meal.
Many store-bought trail mixes typically contain ingredients that are fried in artery-damaging types of fat. The smartest bet is to make your own using raw or dry-roasted nuts, whole-grain cereal and dried fruit. Prepackage into single-serving bags so you can always have a calorie-controlled, healthy snack on hand.
Although one medium avocado has 250 calories, it supplies heart-healthy unsaturated fat. And there's no need to snack on the entire avocado. Spread about one-fifth on whole-grain crackers for a super-filling snack. The fiber (from the crackers) and fat (from the avocados) take longer to digest, keeping you more satisfied. Avocados also contain the antioxidant lutein, shown to help maintain eye health, and the plant sterol beta-sitosterol, shown to help lower cholesterol.