Simone Gabbay, RNCP
"I hope you don't mind," said my friend Lynn as she unwrapped a cereal bar while riding in the car with me one morning. "My breakfast. It lets me sleep in an extra 15 minutes."
“I hope you don’t mind,” said my friend Lynn as she unwrapped a cereal bar while riding in the car with me one morning. “My breakfast. It lets me sleep in an extra 15 minutes.”
Lynn’s breakfast routine is typical of a growing number of Canadians who eat snacks to replace meals while on the go. Some are munching on snacks morning, day, and night because their schedules are too crowded to accommodate regular meals. Many, including children, spend much of their day away from home and depend on portable meals. The biggest snackers, according to NPD Canada’s 4th AnnualEating Patterns in Canada Report, released in 2002, are families with young children below the age of 12. One out of every five snack foods is eaten in school.
What’s in a Snack?
With more and more snacks serving as meal substitutes, we need to pay closer attention to the types of snacks we consume. Which snacks are safe to eat without guilt? Common sense tells us that safe snacks must not only be free of harmful substances such as refined sugar, preservatives, and artificial colour and flavour, but must also make a nutritional contribution to our diet. In short, they must provide us with food value instead of polluting the body with toxins.
Let’s look at some yummy, nutritious snacks that we can feel good about eating, whether at home or on the run:
Fruit and Veggie Power
Sliced fruit or veggie sticks are a great way to get your daily quota of this important food group. If you’re too busy to cut up your own, purchase them already prepared and ready to eat. For an even more portable and less perishable snack, choose from the wide variety of delicious dried fruit bars offered in health food stores. Children love dried fruit snacks, which offer concentrated vitamins and minerals, including iron. Be sure the dried fruit you purchase is organic, as sulfites and pesticide residues from non-organic fruit is concentrated in the snack as well. Some of the organic fruit bars in health food stores are formulated with vegetables and green food concentrates for superior nutrition.
Nuts, Seeds, and Cereal Bars
Nuts are flavourful, satisfying, and high in nutrients, including fibre, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E, as well as magnesium, potassium, and folic acid. Some of the organic energy and protein bars in health food stores are based on nuts and seeds, such as sesame seeds, which are a good source of calcium. The addition of whole grains, such as oats, in a cereal/nut bar complements the protein profile of nuts and seeds. Added dried fruits, such as raisins, apricots, or dates, provide extra flavour and nutrients. Energy bars are the most popular snack food with adults, and for good reason - they pack a powerful nutritional punch!
Crackers, Chips, and Pretzels
In the snack food aisles of your health food store, you can find healthy versions of popular staple snacks, such as potato and corn chips, and preservative-free crackers and pretzels made from organic grains and all-natural ingredients without trans-fatty acids and other harmful substances. Enjoy these snacks in moderation. Although they are made with natural ingredients, their nutritional value is limited, and they should not be consumed as a meal replacement.
Chocolate - A New Health Food?
Too long defamed and misunderstood, chocolate has gained new respect in recent years, as research has shown its main ingredient, cocoa, to be rich in antioxidant flavonoids, which help to keep undesirable LDL cholesterol in check and protect the arteries. Cocoa-rich dark chocolate has higher concentrations of flavonoids than milk chocolate. Cocoa is also high in phosphorus, iron, and vitamin E, as well as other essential minerals, including potassium. Cocoa also contains a mild heart stimulant and phytochemicals that help to relax muscles and cope with stress. Occasional chocolate cravings may signal greater requirements of those nutrients.
Remember, however, that not all chocolate is created equal. Organic chocolate available in health food stores is made with organically produced cocoa and natural, wholesome ingredients, including whole cane sugar and, in the case of milk chocolate, organic milk. It is far more nutritious than many commercial chocolate varieties that are high in refined sugar and artificial flavourings, and are often produced with chemically extracted, refined vegetable oils.
Whether you use snacks to suit your busy schedule, to satisfy hunger, or just to indulge occasionally - you don’t need to resort to junk food. Your health food store offers delicious, nutritious alternatives that you can feel good about and safely enjoy.