- Hannah Aylward
Snacks + Your Health Goals
Why Your Snacks May be Sabotaging
Your Health Goals + How to Fix Them
By: Hannah Aylward
Snacking is an area where I frequently see clients make decisions that don’t support their health goals. Oftentimes, they don’t even know it! Healthy snacks have become so trendy — there are millions of bars, shakes, crackers, cookies and energy balls out there claiming to be the healthiest snack on the market. I’m sorry but those “healthy” energy balls that are loaded with dates and maple syrup are not the best option.
They are desserts disguised as healthy snacks. So how do you sort through them all?
Whether your goal is weight loss, hormone balance, blood sugar stabilization or optimized energy, choosing the right snacks can play a critical role in your daily routine. Unfortunately, it is very easy to be deceived by healthy food marketing. A lot of foods are deemed as a good option when in reality they will spike your blood sugar, provide little to no nutrients, and maybe even cause digestive disturbance. However, don't be discouraged. There are tons of amazing healthy options to choose from as well.
How often you snack is also something to take note of. Your meals, if properly balanced, should be keeping you full and getting you from breakfast to lunch, and from lunch to dinner. This is, of course, if your day goes as planned. There are always those days that, before we know it, we aren’t getting around to eating dinner until 8:00 p.m. My point is, snacks shouldn’t be necessary most of the time.
Digestion is a super energy-intensive process. Having three meals + two snacks every day is keeping your digestion running at full speed … all day long. No wonder you are low on energy! This also keeps your blood glucose levels higher than you want for optimal health.
In order to create satiating meals and calm hunger for 4-6 hours, make sure you have a combination of greens + healthy fats + high-quality protein + fiber in each of your meals. The exact combination is going to be different for everyone, due to varying genetics, activity levels, and hormone health. Test it out and see what works for you! Or work with a professional to find the ideal balance for you. Proper hydration is key to keeping those hunger hormones at bay as well, so drink up! As always, listen to your body. You know it best.
Here are healthy snack swaps to keep your energy up and mind clear.
Yes chips can be made from potatoes or corn (making them gluten-free and possibly “all-natural”), but they are fried, processed, and typically covered in inflammation-producing vegetable oils. Chips are low in nutrients and high in calories, sodium, and acrylamide, a potential carcinogen.
Replace with: seaweed snacks // kale chips // Brussels sprouts chips
These snacks offer that crunchy, salty factor that you long for, but also offer some nutritional benefit. As always, look for brands that use good quality oils (coconut, olive) and have as few ingredients as possible. Or better yet, make your own!
Most trail mixes are packed with excess sugar, excess salt, oils, colorings, and preservatives. Reading the ingredients label on this one is key! Chocolate chips, even if they are in a trail mix, are stillchocolate chips. Cranberries, cherries, raisins and other dried fruits often come covered in canola oil and cane sugar, turning them from good to bad with a capital B.
Replace with: homemade trail mix // a piece of fruit + almond butter // a piece of fruit + cinnamon
Try this recipe below:
½ cup sprouted walnuts
¼ cup sprouted pumpkin seeds
¼ cup raw coconut shavings
¼ cup raw cacao nibs
Handful of dried mulberries
*For a more savory option, try ditching the dried fruit and mixing in cilantro, dried lentils, and spices like cayenne, turmeric and chili.
Prepackaged yogurts area common fake healthy food that I see clients eating. These yogurts can contain up to 29 grams of sugar. A can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar. That’s not that big of a difference. Additionally, dairy is a common trigger food for many people, causing inflammation in the body that can show up as acne, eczema, migraines, hormone issues, leaky gut, IBS, and more. Of course, there are yogurts out there that are better options. Cultured coconut yogurt is one of my favorites. However, just because it is non-dairy doesn’t mean that it is healthy. As always, check the label. These too can be packed with sugar and additives that replaced the dairy.
Replace with: homemade chia pudding
Chia seeds aid in weight loss, promote digestive health, stabilize blood sugar levels and are packed with omega-3s, fiber, and protein.
Try my easy recipe here:
Overnight Chia Pudding
2 Tbs chia seeds
1/2 c unsweetened almond milk
1 Tbsp unsweetened cacao/cocoa powder
1/4 Tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of cinnamon
1 Tbs maple syrup/a few drops of organic stevia
Combine all of the ingredients into a mason jar. Shake it up and place in the fridge for the night. So easy!
Oh, the juice dilemma. While claiming to provide instant energy and liquid vitamins, some juices can actually give you a solid blood sugar spike and sugar rush, complete with a big crash. This is a disaster for your hormones, skin, weight loss, and energy. Fruits and vegetables are amazingly healthy and provide our systems with beautiful nourishment. When we juice, we remove the fiber from the whole food, which means that we miss out on a lot of those yummy gut health benefits. This also means that there is no fiber to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, leaving the sugar hitting the liver hard and all at once, like a margarita. Yikes. This is very different from smoothies that contain the whole food, fiber included.
Not all juices are created equal. A general tip is to choose the green ones and avoid the brightly colored ones. If you are making your own, go fruit free! If you are buying a pre-bottled juice, check the label. Don’t buy anything with more that 5-8 grams of sugar.
Replace with: purely green juice or a small protein shake.
Look for organic, cold-pressed juices made entirely of greens, herbs and a splash of citrus and/or anti-inflammatory roots (ginger, turmeric). Those juices that have been sitting on the grocery store shelf for a few days are not worth the $9. In order to sit on the shelf like that, they have to be pasteurized, even if they say cold-pressed. This destroys nutrients and living enzymes.
You can always avoid the juice all together and mix one scoop of a high-quality, plant-based protein powder with a cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk and ice. This will provide you with protein, vitamins and minerals to truly hold you over until dinner AND cure a sweet craving.
Granola bars are easy to grab when you’re in a hurry. They are also easy to stash in your purse or backpack, as they stay good for a while. That’s a big hint. Would you keep a bag or chopped veggies in your purse for a few weeks? Of course not, because they would go bad. The truth is, most granola bars can contain multiple processed grains, flours, different types of sugars, inflammatory oils, and preservatives to make them last longer on the shelves. Things like soy flour, corn flour, natural flavor, dried cane syrup, soy protein isolate, soy lecithin, and canola oil are present in a lot of the bars out on the market, which will send your energy levels and hormones out of whack. They can also cause digestive disturbance because your body doesn’t recognize them!
Replace with: organic, grass-fed meat bars and jerky // homemade granola bars
Choosing this option will provide your body with the healthy fats and complete proteins that it needs to build muscle and ward off hunger. These are often much less processed and contain real food ingredients. Look for one with ingredients that you can pronounce and no added sugar. If the sound of a “meat bar” is throwing you for a loop, check out this brand.
When it comes to making your own homemade bars, stick to whole ingredients and minimal sugar. The Internet is loaded with options. If you have any questions, let us know below.
A few other snack ideas that I love:
- Celery sticks with 1/2 avocado sprinkled with Himalayan salt.
- 1/2 avocado with a drizzle of olive oil.
- An apple with raw almond butter.
- A hard-boiled egg
-Chopped veggies (whatever your favorites are!) + a handful of walnuts.
To happy + healthy snacking, beauties!
*We recommend that you do not rely solely on the information presented and that you always read labels, warnings, and directions before using or consuming a product. You should consult your health care professional before making any changes to your regular health care routine
Hannah Aylward is a Certified Health Coach, nutrition consultant, fitness instructor, healthy living expert, and founder of HAN. She helps both men and women around the world lose weight, heal skin disturbances, balance hormones, heal gut imbalances and feel at home in their bodies through healthy eating, movement, mindfulness and positive self-talk. Her goal is to help others “learn the tools that they need to live the lives they deserve”. Get to know her by visiting her website and following her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.