The end of a long day is the perfect time for a pick-me-up. It is tempting to indulge in your favorite guilty pleasures, but maybe it is time to lose the guilt and boost the pleasure. Many treats you have around the house (or should have) are fused with nutritional value that provide taste buds, health, and soul with the ingredients they need to stay strong and keep snacking. Learn what nutrition experts have to say about your foodie favorites. Toss the worries away with the wrappers, and enjoy.
Finding yourself reaching for chocolate? Why reprimand yourself? Reach on, newly certified health-guru. “The cocoa bean is rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids act as an antioxidant, helping protect us from environmental toxins and repairing cell damage,” explains Rene Ficek, Registered Dietitian and Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. “Flavonols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.”
Disclaimer: Before you go out to buy a box of assorted chocolates, keep in mind that only certain types of chocolates contain contents high in flavonoids. In the magical world of chocolate and health, remember: the more bitter, the better. Health Expert Katherine Schreiber goes for 100% dark chocolate. “I’ve grown to love the bitter taste, actually,” claims Schreiber, “it satisfies my cravings for sweets because, by the feel of chocolate in my mouth, it satisfies my desire to indulge.” Dark chocolate ranging from 65% cocoa or higher is best, as milk chocolate and cocoa powders often undergo food processing and are less pure. If you don’t consider yourself a minimalist, add some more flavor to the decadence by dipping your favorite fruits into a hot pot of melted chocolate. Bananas, strawberries, and oranges are highly recommended.
Of course you crave that crunchy-salty combo, you human. Now that that’s been addressed, stop buying chip bags filled half way with sodium and half way with remorse. Instead, go for crunchy chickpeas that satisfy 100% of your wants and your body’s needs. “This dish is packed with flavor and fiber making it a perfect snack to curb hunger,” says Ficek. “Plus, the garbanzo beans provide loads of potassium — a key nutrient for keeping blood pressure at bay. Feel free to season with whatever seasoning you love—cayenne pepper, chili powder, or a low sodium barbecue.” Follow the how-to instructions below and savor, share, or don’t!
- Simply drain, rinse, and dry a can of chickpeas.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and the spices of your liking.
- Bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes or until crunchy.
Sneaking to the cinemas just to get a handful of this movie made snack? Enough is enough! Enjoy this fluffy fun food on the regular. Popcorn is a whole grain that is naturally low in fat and sodium. These elements make it out to be a healthy source of fiber and low in calories if made the proper way. Don’t panic, though– healthy popcorn does not have to be boring popcorn. Just make a trip to your spice cabinet. “You can experiment with any trail mix ingredient, really. This mixture can be packaged in individual packets for snacks great for the kiddos. Just be sure to eat within a few days of popping,” Says Ficek. Follow the steps below for jaw dropping flavor:
- Lightly mist with olive oil, then sprinkle with Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan cheese
- For a spicy snack, sprinkle with chili powder, cayenne pepper, and a dash of coarse sea salt
- Top with nutritional yeast, a vegan source of vitamin B-12, for a cheese-like flavor
- Make traditional air-popped corn into a modest-calorie sweet treat by mixing one cup of popcorn with dark chocolate shavings, dried cranberries, and ground cinnamon.
Surprise surprise, this party favorite is favored by the body, too. Because it is made mostly of avocados, this dip/spread is a rather healthy option. Avocados are packed with a great deal of vitamins, nutrients, and heart healthy fats. “Guacamole gets a bad rap for being high in calories, which it is, but offers a lot of nutrition for the calories you are eating. Considering it is high in calories, it is important to watch portion size, and of course what you are eating with it,” recommends Ficek. “Baked chips are healthy and pair well with guacamole, or it can be used as a spread for wraps and sandwiches.” Pat yourself on the back for dipping into this one.
Cheers to this complimentary dinner drink that has benefits besides helping you wind down. Before you collect every bottle at your local store/winery, make sure you know which ones contain these benefits. Certain red grapes such as the Tempranillo grapes (those used to make Rioja) include fiber and antioxidants that work to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol even better than strong sources of fiber such as oats. These antioxidants found in red wine known as polyphenols can help to prevent clotting in blood vessels. Need more convincing to unscrew that cork? Resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes acts to control blood sugar, boost memory, and prevent cancer. Bottoms up, but drink responsibly. One glass will suffice.
Salads don’t have to be all lettuce and leaves- toss in a few of your favorite veggies, nuts, dried fruits and even hummus for a blend of flavors and nutrients. Health Expert Katherine Schreiber utilizes salad buffets for achieving the salad supreme. “The mere act of going to a buffet and choosing what items I want in my salad helps me feel like I’m getting away with something even though I’m just picking healthy things,” she says. “The volume makes me feel full even though what I’m eating technically doesn’t have that many calories.”
Stop! Don’t run at the first sight of fat. Salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna are a few fatty fish that contain high levels of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are beneficial for heart health, lowering blood pressure, and easing joint pain. Studies have also found that eating foods rich in omega-3s can decrease levels of depression. Specific omega-3 fatty acids found in fish include EPA and DHA. However, if these water creatures are not your cup of tea, does not mean you have to miss out on these helpful fatty acids. ALA, another form of omega-3 fatty acid, can be received from nuts and seeds such as walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax, and chia.