Snack foods-we love 'em. And not surprisingly, they're our downfall. Most are loaded with sugars, refined sugar-like carbs, unhealthful fats, and huge amounts of calories per square inch. Likewise, soft drinks and energy drinks usually contain sugars or artificial sweeteners. So, is there any such thing as a healthful snack? Or is the term an oxymoron? We discovered some wonderful snacks and beverages that met our dual criteria of being healthful and tasting great.
LÄRABAR: Wholesome Heaven
Lara Merriken had a great idea while hiking in the Colorado Rockies-a wholesome "food" bar. When the first LÄRABAR hit the market in 2003, it revolutionized the way people thought about snack and energy bars. No exaggeration. First, LÄRABARs taste fantastic. No medicinal aftertaste. Second, they have only a handful of ingredients, ranging from two to six. No big chemistry sets here. Third, the ingredients are natural-mostly nuts, dates, and unsweetened fruits and spices. No dairy, gluten, sugar, or soy in any of the bars. Today, LÄRABARs come in 14 flavors. They're all pretty good, but our favorites are Lemon Bar and Pistachio. Depending on the flavor, LÄRABARs weigh in at 45 to 51 g (just under 2 ounces) with 180 to 220 calories.
PURE Bar: Pure Delight
PURE Bar began with Veronica Bosgraaf trying to satisfy the tastes of her 6-year-old daughter, who declared herself a vegetarian. Bosgraaf's idea was to make a bar completely organic and totally raw, without any refined sugars, preservatives, trans fats, dairy, gluten, or soy. The result was PURE bars, which are sweet and chewy and seem almost too decadent to be healthful. You'll find six flavors. Our favorites are Apple Cinnamon and Cherry Cashew. Depending on the flavor, the 1.7-ounce bars have 190 to 200 calories each.
ProBars: The Ultra Satisfying Snack
ProBars were developed by a natural foods chef and snowboarder who was searching for nutritious meal and snack solutions on the slopes. Made with whole foods that deliver optimal nutrition and taste, including oats, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and dates, ProBars are 100 percent vegan and organic. Flavors include Cherry Pretzel, Kettle Corn, and Art's Original Blend (which is like a trail mix bar). These bars are by far the most substantial of the bunch, weighing in at around 370 calories per bar. But they'll give you the staying power to make it to the next meal, and they work great as a meal replacement for busy days.
Ayala's Herbal Water: Exotic Elixirs
Bored with plain water, the bitterness of mineral water, and the same-old taste of soft drinks, Ayala Laufer-Cahana, a pediatrician-turned-artist, began creating her own herb-infused waters in 2005. Each 16-ounce bottle consists of pure water infused with original combinations of culinary (not medicinal) herbs. Free of calories, additives, and preservatives, there's nothing quite like these aromatic beverages, which have a refreshing and tantalizing taste. Ayala's comes in six flavors. Our three favorites are Ginger Lemon Peel, Cinnamon Orange Peel, and Cloves Cardamom Cinnamon. Sound exotic? They're simply sublime.
Amy & Brian Coconut Juice: Tropical Treasure
Although it's called coconut juice, it's really coconut water-the liquid that sloshes around inside coconuts. Coconut water is the best natural isotonic beverage, meaning that it contains nutrients in levels similar to those found in your blood. It's perfect for rehydrating and replenishing your potassium levels after exercising. Amy & Brian Coconut Juice comes in three flavors: Coconut Juice with Lime, Coconut Juice with Pulp, and, our favorite of the bunch, pulp-free Coconut Juice, which has a nice, smooth taste. There's no added sugar, but an 8-ounce serving contains 10 g of natural sugars, which is part of 19 g of total carbs, a whopping 480 mg of potassium, a scant 42 mg of sodium, and absolutely no cholesterol.
One final thought: while these are five healthful snacks, the food bars and the coconut juice do contain calories, carbs, and natural sugars. If you have prediabetes, diabetes, or are overweight, be careful to not overindulge.
What Are You Really Craving?
While healthful snacks are an important part of a nutritious diet, many people overdo it, eating entire bags of potato chips or bingeing on sugary desserts. Give your body what it really needs by paying attention to specific food cravings. Here's a quick chart to help you get the nutrients your body craves. -Emily A. Kane, ND, LAc
If you crave ...
What you need is ...
Healthy food choices include ...
Raw nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits
Chromium and other trace minerals (including carbon, phosphorus, and sulfur), tryptophan
Broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables), grapes, cheese, dried beans, organic liver, chicken, fresh fruits, eggs, organic dairy products, legumes, whole grains, sweet potatoes
High-protein foods: fish, meat, poultry, nuts, beans
Chloride, sodium, iodine
Raw goat's milk, fish, unrefined sea salt, sea vegetables
Dark leafy greens, broccoli, legumes, cheese, sesame seeds
Flax oils or seeds, olive oil, fatty fish (baked or steamed)
Chewy Granola Bars
Makes 25 squaresIf you've got a little time, why not bake your own snacks? These treats are tender, chewy, and wholesome.
2½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt, divided
2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 large egg whites
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Combine oats, flour, baking soda, and ¼ tsp. salt in bowl. Stir in apricots, chocolate chips, and walnuts.
- Beat brown sugar, maple syrup, almond butter, oil, and egg whites with electric beater until smooth. Stir in oat mixture.
- Spread mixture in prepared baking dish, and pat down firmly. Sprinkle top with remaining salt. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm. Cool 20 minutes before slicing into bars. Unmold, and store in airtight container.
PER SQUARE: 202 CAL; 4 G PROT; 8.5 G TOTAL FAT (1.5 G SAT FAT); 29 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 97 MG SOD; 2 G FIBER; 14 G SUGARS