Healthy snacking on the road can be tricky. Temptations abound (peanut M&Ms, anyone?) and the foods you know and love may be scarce or entirely unavailable depending on where you’re headed. To get the most out of any vacation, your body must also be able to relax and rejuvenate, but if you’re eating foreign, salty and sugary foods you may come home feeling worse than when you left. Nooooo! To help make your summer vacation fabulous and nutritious, we spoke with registered dietician and MIN’s resident product developer Mitch
To help make your summer vacation fabulous and nutritious, we spoke with registered dietician and our resident product developer Mitch Thisius, to discover how healthy eating can be made possible anywhere – yes, even the middle-of-nowhere gas station.
Q: What snacking mistakes do you see people making while on the go?
MT: It’s easy to forget that healthy snacks can also be quick and portable. Too often we think that when we need to grab something easy that means we’ll have to default to something unhealthy like potato chips, candy bars, or a sugar-loaded granola bar. While these foods or often the most prominent in convenience and grocery stores, it’s important to remember that healthy snacks can be convenient as well. Beef jerky, for example, is a great snack that a lot of people forget about. Lightly salted popcorn is also a good choice. And of course, the produce section is overflowing with delicious single-serve snacks like apples, oranges, peaches, bananas, carrots, etc. Fruit paired with nut butter (some now even come in single-serve squeeze packs) makes an awesome snack.
Q: What snack do you recommend people never leave home without?
MT: Almonds make a great on-the-go snack because they don’t have a temperature requirement. Jerky, dried fruit, kale chips – these are also good. I also love Made In Nature’s Figgy Pops and Nut Fusions. In general, I suggest people try to get at least two of the three different macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein) in their snacks. If you have a healthy, balanced snack on hand it’s going to sustain you longer and make you feel better.
Q: When selecting snacks, what should people keep in mind?
MT: Many snacks are heavy on refined sugars or “simple carbs.” These will raise your blood sugar and then send it crashing, making you feel sluggish, bloated and groggy and leading to more sugar cravings.
Think of selecting snacks like creating a meal; you want to include as many whole grains, fruits and vegetables as possible to get healthy fats and protein. Look for nuts and seeds on the ingredient list or add them in yourself. If you are eying a bar that has refined sugars (most do), balance it out with protein and fat. Unsweetened yogurt delivers both. Pair fruit with cottage cheese, or dip your apple slices in nut butter.
Q: What about in airports?
MT: Airports are getting better at offering healthier, better-tasting food. Most of the convenience stores and storefront-style restaurants you see in terminals offer fresh fruit, yogurt, salads, and sandwiches. At the very least you can find some kind of a granola bar that has a balance of carbs, healthy fats and hopefully some protein. Many newsstands also offer trail mixes and dried fruit. The challenge in airports is to avoid the junk food, which is everywhere. Good stuff can be found, you just have to make a choice that you’re going to stick to what’s good for you.
Q: How can someone evaluate if a snack is truly healthy?
MT: If you look at the ingredient list on a snack-food label and sugar is one of the first three ingredients, chances are it’s not healthy. Another giveaway is if the ingredient list is excessively long or has ingredients that you wouldn’t find in a home kitchen. When a snack is higher in carbohydrates, like fresh or dried fruits and vegetables, it should be accompanied by the benefits of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Ideally, a snack should contain some protein and healthy fats. This will help you stay satisfied longer and level out blood sugar.
Q: Any suggestions for easy transportable kids snacks?
MT: For kids, snacks have to be fun, delicious and preferably not messy! The same principles for a healthy snack for adults apply to snacks for kids, though parents do have to be more vigilant with kids’ snacks because so much marketing money is devoted to making snacks look healthy when they really aren’t. My favorite options for kids are fruit purees in squeeze packs, single-serve yogurts, trail mix (Made In Nature’s Nut Fusion blends are great!), jerky, vegetable chips and Figgy Pops.