This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. I’m not really inclined to share the Strawberry Simply Yogurt Bars either, but maybe the mango ones if I’m feeling generous… #OutshineSnacks #CollectiveBias
Wouldn’t it be great if we still had summer vacation? I guess for those of you who are teachers, you still do. I’m jealous!
Remember sitting on the deck, frozen treat in hand as it melts and drips down your hands?
Whether your job affords it or not, the carefree days of summer vacation with nothing to do and no responsibility are probably long gone for most of us. But that doesn’t mean we’ve lost the opportunity to indulge in a sweet snack that offers an ode to those care-free days.
I’m a serious snacker. I eat regular meals too but consume a significant portion of my daily food intake at sporadic points throughout the day. While I generally snack when I’m hungry, I’d be fooling myself to ignore that I occasionally snack out of boredom. Many of us do I suspect.
Sometimes, I reach for an apple or celery and peanut butter or a bowl of fruit and some nuts for a snack. These whole foods certainly are great choices. Other times, though, I crave something a little more indulgent and fun (like the aforementioned treats reminiscent of childhood days). Reaching for a snack regularly, especially when I crave something a bit sweeter, makes understanding what I eat ever more important. I do my best to make responsible choices about the food I eat, most of the time.
Making good choices hinges on knowing what we’re eating, and that means reading and understanding nutritional labels. I read them on just about every item I ever buy from the grocery store for the first time. While every item I purchase may not meet all my criteria of a great snack, knowledge is power. At the very least, I know what I’m eating and can make conscious choices accordingly.
In that spirit, I thought I’d share a few things I consider when searching for the perfect sweet yet slightly indulgent snack that satisfies my cravings without packing on the pounds.
Read the Label & Snack Brighter: 5 Tips for Better Snacking
Knowing what you eat depends first on reading the nutritional label. If the product doesn’t have a nutritional label, you’ll know straight away that it’s either a healthy, whole food or something you shouldn’t touch with a 5 foot pole. I’ll let you make that call yourself, as I’m fairly certain the distinction will be clear.
After reading the ingredients and nutritional facts label, ask yourself the following:
1. Can I Read and Pronounce the Ingredients? Do I recognize them?
This offers an indication of the processed nature of the food. The more whole foods or ingredients you recognize, the less processed and, often times, healthier the food is.
2. Does one serving have about 200 calories or less or at least 4 grams of protein?
I definitely don’t count calories and never have. I’m not disciplined enough to do that for even one day. But paying attention to general caloric intake helps gauge how “significant” the snack is to relative to my daily calorie needs. Some things have far more calories than one might expect, so it’s helpful to have an idea where your snack choice stacks up.
Ideally, a satisfying snack has a balanced mix of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Even if it doesn’t, at least 4 grams of protein will help you feel full and not leave you craving more snacks shortly thereafter.
3. Are there less than 5 ingredients?
The number of ingredients offers another indication of the processed nature of the food. Fewer ingredients generally indicates a better option.
4. Is sugar one of the first two ingredients?
In a perfect world, a great snack has no added sugar. We don’t live in a perfect world (at least I don’t). If sugar is not one of the first two ingredients, however, you’ll stand a better chance that it’s not loaded in ‘not so great for you’ calories and ingredients.
Be forewarned, however, that sugar has a host of aliases. Some nutritionists suggest sugar has as many as 56 different names, making identifying the ingredient no easy task. Just because a snack has added sugar doesn’t make it entirely off-limits, but you’ll find it in more foods than you might think. As mentioned earlier, it’s always helpful to at least know when you’re consuming a bit of extra sweetness.
5. If I made it myself, would I use the same ingredients?
This is another way of asking if the ingredients used are “real food” (similar to #1 above) and something you might find at your normal grocery store. If the ingredients list a load of items you wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t use, couldn’t find or wouldn’t buy, then it’s not likely something you want to be adding to your cabinet or freezer.
Note that some products include a small amount of preservatives. These are often listed as one of the last few ingredients. Given the nature of foods that we eat, how we purchase them, the travel time from farm to table, and other considerations, it’s a fact of life that certain of our foods will have some preservatives in them (at least that’s the case for most of us). If all the main ingredients look great and I see a trace preservative ingredient as the last item on the list, I’m generally game to give it a go.
Certainly I’m no nutritionist, and of course, every person’s body and nutritional requirements vary. The guidelines above, however, can prove helpful in better understanding what we’re eating and learning how to make better choices. Guiding principles generally lend themselves to greater success at overall good eating habits more than rigid rules or limitations.
Let’s head back to those warm summer days with our hands covered in melting frozen treats.
In the past and again this summer, I know I’ll be searching the freezer section at the grocery store for the perfect cold and refreshing treat for the upcoming hot summer days. One snack that I stock in my freezer are the Nestle Outshine Bars. I had a box of Nestle Outshine Fruit Bars in my freezer and recently added the Outshine Simply Yogurt Bars to mix things up. (I also tossed a box of the Outshine Strawberry Fruit Bars from Walmart in my mom’s freezer when I visited a few weeks ago. I suspect she might steal a few in my absence. I can always replace them when I go back to visit.) The Coconut Water Bars and the Fruit & Veggies Bars intrigued me as well.
The bars don’t meet ALL the criteria above (most sweet snacks won’t). Both the Outshine Fruit Bars and the Outshine Simply Yogurt Bars, however, meet 2 -3 of the criteria above, a win in my book when I’m looking for a little indulgence that’s not necessarily “straight off the apple tree.”
What principles guide your efforts at better snacking? I’d love to hear more in the comments!
P.S. Thanks to my mother-in-law, a personal nutrition consultant, who’s been teaching our family the ins and outs of eating well for many years (even if we don’t always follow all the rules).
And… my boys got their hands on these. T’s found the ground before making it all the way into his belly, so there’s that.