There it goes again - that familiar growling in your stomach. Hunger pangs usually hit right around dinnertime, before we may have actually gotten dinner on the table. Munchies can also hit later on at night, after you've eaten that healthy grilled chicken salad. What can you nosh on without ruining your healthy diet? Rice cakes? Forget it! Just look around your kitchen and take a peek. There's plenty there - you just need to know what to do with it.
Great Fridge Finds
Unless you never go grocery shopping, chances are you usually have a few things kicking around in your fridge that can make tasty snacks. Bypass the bacon and grab that peanut butter jar. No longer naughty, nuts have made a comeback as a delicious and nutritious food. Nuts and nut butters are rich in monounsaturated fats and are a good source of fiber. You still need to look at portion size though. Keep it to two tablespoons for peanut butter. Spread it on an apple, baby carrots or celery sticks to make it to dinner. Natural peanut butter is best, so make sure to pick some up the next time you're at the store.
Got some salsa left over from last night's burritos? Pair it with some carrot sticks or cucumber spears (really, it's good). If you're really famished and have a can of beans on hand, you can quickly mix a few tablespoons of salsa with a cup of beans. Wrap it in a tortilla or scoop it up with a handful of tortilla chips and you have a high-fiber snack.
A Dozen Healthy Pantry Pick-Me-Ups:
- Carrots - Cut them into sticks and dip them in salsa, light salad dressing, yogurt dip or peanut butter.
- Bananas - On their own, they're great, but add them to a smoothie, or freeze them for a fun treat, and they're even better.
- Celery - They're as versatile as carrots and even lower in calories. And they're crunchy enough to help die-hard chip fans get through the munchies.
- Cucumbers - Slice them up and sprinkle lightly with salt for a refreshing snack.
- Dried cereal - Mix this up with nuts and dried fruit for a healthy post-gym treat. Just make sure to keep your serving to 1/2 cup.
- Nuts - Peanuts, almonds, pecans and other nuts can be tossed with dried cereal and raisins or mixed into a 6-ounce yogurt for a healthy bite.
- Orange juice/Other juices - If you have Popsicle molds or even just ice cube trays, pour in the juice and pop it in the freezer. In just a few hours, you'll have a cool and tasty refreshment.
- Peanut butter - Slather on an apple or to add a tablespoon or two to a smoothie for a protein-rich treat.
- Quesadillas - Use black beans or any other canned beans you have on hand. Add in a sprinkling of cheese, a dollop of salsa and you're in business.
- Raisins - sprinkle these high iron and fiber-rich gems into plain yogurt or mix with 1/3 cup of nuts for instant trail mix.
- Salsa - makes a great dip for veggies and also can be used on sandwiches as a low fat spread instead of mayo.
- Yogurt - If you have plain yogurt in the fridge, you're ready to go. Add some fresh herbs (parsley, dill or thyme will all work), along with a dash of salt and pepper, and you're set.
Frances Largeman, R.D., earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York. Frances has appeared on local and national TV and has been quoted in Cooking Light magazine, as well as food and health sections of local newspapers across the country.