When it comes to snack foods, it’s not uncommon for the word ‘processed’ to be used in a way that makes you shudder. The epitome of health, it seems, is the lack of processing, packaging, and long ingredient lists. While there is some truth to be had in processed food stereotypes, there are certainly times where even a dietitian would approve of your choice to consume a processed snack food! These dietitian-approved processed snack foods are a better alternative than what you would otherwise eat, or not eat.
Here are 5 dietitian-approved processed snack foods to keep in your pantry or glove box on busy days.
A personal favorite of mine, trail mix is one of the best optimally balanced snacks you can eat. The classic mix with almonds, peanuts, raisins, and M&M candies typically has an ideal 1:2 ratio of protein to carbs in regards to balancing blood sugar levels. Further, nuts and seeds found in trail mix will have nutrient packed fats for your body.
Consider buying small snack packs to easily bring along during your day to day activities. Try making your own combinations by mixing together your favorite nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cereal or pretzels, and of course a bit of chocolate! Here are a few fun combinations to try:
Chocolate cherry: oatmeal squares, mixed nuts, chocolate chips, dried tart cherries
Coconut chunk: granola, mixed nuts, chocolate chips, dried banana chips, dried coconut chunks
Harvest fruit: dried apricots, mixed nuts, pretzels, chocolate chips, dried blueberries
While protein shakes are absolutely not a requirement to be a good athlete, stashing a few non-perishable drinks in your car or training bag can be an essential tool to your success. Having a grab-n-go protein source will help you get needed protein following a workout in a timely manner. Many athletes also find it easier to drink their nutrition immediately following a hard effort, allowing their stomach some time to settle before consuming more solid foods.
If your protein shake doesn’t have adequate carbohydrates in it for post-workout recovery, be sure to pair your shake with an easily packable carbohydrate (such as a banana + bagel) to ensure you get enough carbohydrate to enhance recovery as well.
One of my favorite savory snacks to help satisfy afternoon hunger is a beef or turkey stick. Similar to jerky, but typically made with less sugar and fat. These jerky sticks pack a load of protein. They also taste great when paired with string cheese, crackers, or a piece of fruit.
Date bars (i.e. Larabar or other generic brand) are some of my favorite bars to have around. Most are simply made with dates, nuts, and a variety of other dried fruits. These bars are a great source of easily digestible carbohydrates that would work well as pre-workout fuel. If you find yourself short on time in the mornings when driving to meet with workout friends, these could be a great option to have on hand so you don’t skip your fuel.
Because sometimes you just need something to satisfy that salty & crunchy craving! For athletes, having some extra salt from processed foods may help more than hurt in replacing electrolytes lost from sweat. Choosing chips and crackers that are whole-grain can improve your fiber and protein intake throughout the day as well. Try pairing your chips and crackers with hummus, string cheese, or guacamole. Serve on the side of your lunch or dinner, or as a stand alone snack.
Processed Foods In A Healthy Diet
It may seem that processed foods do not have a place in a healthy diet, the reality is there are instances where it makes sense to include them. Find places in your day to add them where the convenience factor will enhance your overall nutrition. This will override the fact that the food came from a package.