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The Zen of healthy snacking in a busy world

“Mom? What is there to eat???” If bridging the gap between meals is causing you stress, read on.

Snacking can be a very healthy habit. Snacks offer opportunities to add extra nutrition, keep blood sugar steady, give you energy, help with focus and keep you from overeating at meal times.

But it’s challenging to choose health in a world of cookies and chips. We know if it stains your fingers orange it’s probably not a good choice but it’s so easy to rip open a bag and chow down. So, how do we find the Zen of snacking and make it easier to bring about healthy choices?

Here’s whatcha do – designate healthy snack bins for your fridge and pantry. Then make it part of your weekly routine to keep them stocked. Prepare portion-controlled, grown-up approved snacks and everyone can simply serve themselves. And it’s not just for the kiddies, we all eat better when it’s this easy to grab and go.

Focus on “real” foods to keep the nutrition high and the artificial ingredients low. Protein is especially valuable in snack choices. Individual serving size snacks can be ridiculously expensive to buy so use reusable plastic containers and snack-sized zip-top baggies to portion your own. I sign up for free product samples to get small-sized treats in the mail.

But what goes in the bins? Here’s a barrage of healthy snack ideas:

Veggies – celery, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, jicama, bell peppers, edamame and cherry tomatoes.

Fruit – small apples, sliced apples (brush with lemon to prevent browning), grapes, bananas and seasonal fruit.

Protein – sliced cheese, yogurt, nuts and seeds, sliced chicken breast, chicken legs, hard-boiled eggs, deviled eggs, meatballs, tuna or chicken salad.

Dips and spreads – Peanut, almond and other nut butters, hummus and other bean-based dips. Salsa, pizza sauce, cream cheese, avocado, mustard, pesto. Blend cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with a touch of ranch dressing or honey or jam.

Crunchy things – whole wheat pretzels, pita chips, whole grain crackers, popcorn, rice cakes, graham crackers, granola.

Now, mix it up! Make parfaits with cottage cheese, fruit and granola, roll a banana in peanut butter and coat with coconut.

Make ants on a log with celery, nut butter and dried cranberries.

Pinwheel sandwiches with cream cheese, deli meat and shredded carrots.

Use whole wheat tortillas to make quick little quesadillas or burritos, make mini pizzas with English muffins, tomato and cheese heated under the broiler, top whole grain waffles with peanut butter and sliced fruit.

Top whole grain crackers with chicken breast and avocado.

Brush apple slices with warmed honey and coat with sunflower seeds, wrap a cheese stick with sliced ham and serve with mustard, use your blender to make a smoothie from yogurt, banana and peanut butter.

The trick is to be creative and have fun. Offer an ever-changing selection with sweet and savory, dips and spreads, crunchy and creamy so there’s something for everyone. Now, when they ask you for a snack you simply smile and point to the bin. Namaste, Zen Diva.

Fabulous Food contributed by Patti Diamond from Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! www.divasonadime.com. Join us on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom.

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