Today is Earth Day, a day focused on building a healthy, sustainable environment. Keep the earth healthy, slash your grocery bill and improve your health at the same time. Here’s how:
Avoid Food Waste
In America, food is cheap and always available. This oversupply of food combined with food marketing means we over buy and end up throwing out an average of 31 – 41% of the food we purchase. In addition to throwing your hard earned dollar in the trash can, food waste drains the environment. Rotting fruits and vegetables, the top food wasted, uses fresh water and contributes to ethylene gas, methane and CO2 emissions all of which are harmful for our environment (1). “Food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption and ∼300 million barrels of oil per year” (1). Rotting food produces a large amount of methane gas, a gas that has 25 times the impact of CO2 on global warming (3). Dairy products are second behind fruits and vegetables followed by meat, which has the biggest impact on the environment.
Here’s what you can do to avoid waste:
Use a shopping list to prevent impulse buys. It doesn’t matter if it’s on sale if you will end up throwing it out.
Buy small amounts and only what you need and will realistically use before it goes bad.
Buy frozen and canned versions, which have the same nutrition value and you can use them at your convenience (metal cans are endlessly recyclable)
Keep fruits and vegetables fresh or for longer period of time with products that decrease the production of ethylene gas (find them in your local natural food store in the produce section).
Don’t automatically throw food out when the “use by” date arrives. That date is a measure of quality and not food safety. Assess your food to ensure it is still safe (smell your meat, poultry, fish, dairy, nuts and oils; make sure fruits and vegetables are not molded).
Plant proteins typically cost less $ than meat, fish and poultry and they cost less in terms of environmental resources to produce – less water, fewer environmental gases produced. Plant proteins also deliver plant-based compounds that protect the body. When choosing plant proteins you may need more, per meal, to get the right amount of muscle building amino acids. In addition to swapping out some meat-based meals, consider eating smaller amounts of meat and adding a plant protein as a side dish. Here are some excellent choices based on their nutrition profile:
Peas, split pea soup
Legumes, beans, bean pastas, lentils (I soak lentils for about 45 minutes and add them to a variety of dishes)
Soy foods including tofu, tempeh, edamame
Nut, bean and other flours – substitute some of the flour in your recipe for: pecan, peanut, almond, garbanzo bean, fava bean, black bean and other higher protein flours
Buy Staples in Bulk
Whole Foods, Sprouts, Wegmans and similar stores have a bulk section where you can get everything from black rice to oatmeal. Consider shopping in the bulk isle. You’ll save $ and food packaging!
Have you had those days where your stomach feels like it is going to eat itself at any moment and you realize that it is only ten in the morning? Even after eating a good breakfast, having hunger pangs before lunchtime can be frustrating and really decrease concentration and productivity. That’s why many people turn to snacks – to tie them over until their next meal. According to recent studies, 97% of male and female participants over the age of 20 reported eating a snack1, with most individuals eating 2 to 3 snacks a day2. However, having a snack that is high in fat and sugar can make you feel sluggish and put you over your calorie budget for the day. So, before running to the vending machine and grabbing a candy bar, indulge in these healthy, tasty snacks that will fuel your body through your midmorning tasks:
Nuts & Seeds
All nuts and seeds are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy plant based compounds (including antioxidants) and therefore, you should mix and match your nuts and seeds so you get a diverse array of nutrients (since each nut/seed has different nutrients) and tastes. Here are a few of my favorites:
Almonds – These power-packed nuts are sure to fuel your work day with plenty of protein and heart-healthy fats. A one-ounce serving (about 23 raw almonds) will only set you back 164 calories and provide you with 6 grams of protein.
In Shell Pistachios – Preliminary behavioral studies suggest that you may consume fewer calories if you opt for in-shell pistachios versus those already shelled because it takes time to break them open and the shells are a visual reminder of what you’ve eaten. Wonderful Pistachios 100-calorie snack packs make a great on-the-go snack that conveniently helps control your portions. Looking for flavor and maybe even something a little sweet and spicy? Try Wonderful Pistachios Sweet Chili*.
Preliminary behavioral studies suggest that you may consume fewer calories if you opt for in-shell pistachios versus those already shelled because it takes time to break them open and the shells are a visual reminder of what you’ve eaten. Wonderful Pistachios 100-calorie snack packs make a great on-the-go snack that conveniently helps control your portions. Looking for flavor and maybe even something a little sweet and spicy? Try Wonderful Pistachios Sweet Chili – the secret is in the spices. Salt and pepper has just the right touch of spices to deliver a peppery bite.
A childhood favorite, this snack not only brings out your favorite memories, it also gives you a great protein-packed snack to keep you satisfied ‘till lunchtime. Cut a small stalk of celery in half, then lengthwise to give you four halves of celery. Divide one tablespoon of peanut butter and one tablespoon of raisins into each of the celery halves. This tasty, fun snack stacks up to only 124 calories and 4 grams of protein!
Turkey and Cheese Roll-Up
Looking for a more savory snack? Pack a 1-oz slice of deli turkey and a slice of your favorite low-fat cheese for a dose of 12 grams of protein to keep you full, 200 mg of calcium for bone health, and a measly 145 calories!
Ever heard of edamame? Don’t worry, it is just a fancy word for green soybeans. Steam ¾ cup of these shelled soybeans with a sprinkle of garlic powder for a tasty treat that only sets you back by about 140 calories. And don’t worry, with 13 grams protein and 6 grams of fiber, this snack will be sure to keep your belly happy!
5. Hummus Dippers
Hummus is a food trend that is really sticking; it is a great, healthy snack that is inexpensive and flavorful. So, what exactly is it? Hummus is a Mediterranean dip made of ground chickpeas and spices. Try dipping your favorite vegetable in it, such as baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, or sliced bell pepper for a nutrient-dense snack. At about 100 calories, 2 tablespoons with a handful of your favorite dip-able veggies are a fresh way to keep you going. Also check out edamame hummus – it’s simply amazing (Trader Joe’s has one or make your own).
Peanut Butter Toast
This rich, creamy snack will help quell your stomach and hold you over. Toast one 100% whole wheat slice of bread and top with 1 tablespoon of your favorite peanut butter for 160 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber.
Popcorn is a fun, easy-to-eat snack that gives you more bang for your calorie “buck”. For a whole 3 ½ cups of plain popcorn, you’re getting 4 grams of fiber and only about 100 calories. Word of caution: try to avoid the buttery or sweet popcorn flavors as those have more calories and sodium in them!
Strawberries and Cream
Want a change from a plain cup of strawberries? Dip some berries or 1 cup of your favorite fruit in ½ cup of low-fat or fat-free Cool Whip for a light and fresh 100-calorie snack. Or try mixing higher protein cream cheese with a little cheesecake flavored cream cheese and spread this on sliced strawberries or pipe it into hulled strawberries.
Fuel up with this creamy treat that won’t weigh you down. Top ½ cup of fat-free vanilla yogurt with 2 tablespoons of your favorite low-fat granola and ½ cup of fresh blueberries (or ½ cup of your favorite fruit). This fun snack is nutrient-packed with 7 grams of protein, plenty of calcium for strong bones, and only 200 calories.
10. Cabot snack size*. Individually pre-wrapped cheeses can be kept out for hours and they are a great nutrition-rich (protein, calcium and more) snack to tie you over until your next meal. Find them at Wegmans, Costco and Acme.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2014. Snacks: Percentages of Selected Nutrients Contributed by Food and Beverages Consumed at Snack Occasions, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2011-2012.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2014. Snacks: Distribution of Snack Occasions, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2011-2012.
United States Department of Agriculture. Supertracker. Internet: https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/foodtracker.aspx (accessed 5 November 2014).
Several times a week I am asked about healthy snacks – what can I eat between meals to satisfy my hunger and fuel my athletic performance (or workday!). And, as Nancy Clark says, it is a good idea to think of eating a “mini-meal” vs. a snack. The word meal conjures up thoughts of whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean sources of protein whereas the word “snack” may make us think of the snack isle at the grocery store. So, fill up on smaller meals. Here are some great options from RD-to-be Sara Shipley from the University of Central Oklahoma:
Oatmeal with low fat milk and a spoonful of almond butter or peanut butter. Bob’s Red Mill is minimally processed and has a chewy, nutty flavor. (personally, I’m a big Quaker fan but I’ll try Bob’s one day!).
Greek yogurt. If you need it sweet, buy plain yogurt and drizzle a little honey on top or mix in a little bit of jam. Add granola or walnuts for crunch or or Yogi granola chips.
Edamame with a side of red grapes. Cook the edamame (it takes 5 minutes max and it is a great source of fiber and protein) and sprinkle a little sea salt on top. Pair it with red grapes for a sweet & salty combo.
Trail mix. Make it yourself or pick up a bag of healthy trail mix. If you are a DIYer, mix together an equal amount of dry roasted almonds, pumpkin seeds (great for magnesium), dried cranberries and golden raisins. Add any other nuts as desired.
Whole grain cereal. If you are concerned about your vitamin & mineral intake, add a little cereal to your nutrition plan. Most cereal is fortified and whole grains are a great source of antioxidants and fiber. My new fav: KIND Healthy Grains.
Mini toasts with goat cheese and sliced pears. Try spreading an oz or two of soft goat cheese on several whole grain Melba toasts with thinly sliced pears for a tangy, salty, crunchy snack.
Guacamole (or salsa) with chips. Avocados are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats so pairing guac with whole grain chips works well (if you are worried about portions, check the individual servings of guac in some stores – I found these in Target).
Hummus and Sweet Bell pepper. Try slicing a red, yellow or orange pepper for a sweet flavor and pair it with hummus. Tribe original or, I love Sabra with roasted pine nuts!
Warm soup (many come in low sodium varieties) with 3-4 whole grain melba toasts. Try V8 butternut squash soup – great for the Fall and Winter!
Graham crackers with a spoonful of ricotta. Spread the ricotta on and drizzle honey on top if you really want to up the sweet ante.
Jell-O Sweet Temptation French Silk chocolate pudding with a handful of raspberries (this time of year you can thaw frozen raspberries very quickly on the shelf or in the microwave).
Sandwich thins with a spoonful of Nutella and sprinkle of peanut butter chips. Place under the broiler for 1 minute and melt.
Core a red apple and place it in a microwave bowl. Cook in the microwave for 1-2 minutes to soften. Add a spoonful of peanut butter into the middle and zap again for 45 seconds. Dig in to your mini apple-peanut butter pie!
Kettlecorn with cinnamon and sugar (DIY) or Popcorn Indiana’s version (their holiday one drizzled with chocolate is so good!).
Banana frozen yogurt DIY. Add 2-3 frozen bananas (chopped) into a blender with 1/2 cup lowfat milk. Add 3/4 cup ice and blend until smooth. Add chocolate chips or granola for a topping.
Chopped figs with brie cheese on whole grain crackers. A little messy but it sure is good!
And there are two more I’ll add since I am frequently dashing through airports – I love KIND bars and Clif Builder Bars (and mixed nuts as well as cereal in a ziploc). Portable, easy and TSA approved!
Thanks Sara! I can’t wait to try these ideas myself!