With this family’s hectic schedule and picky palates, the pantry has turned into Processed Foods Central. “When he was small,” Monica says, “my oldest son would eat a variety of healthy foods, and then it was like somebody flipped a switch: Suddenly, all he wanted was snack foods. I want what they’re eating to nourish their bodies, but I don’t want the constant argument that it doesn’t taste good. And I don’t want my kids to be 38 years old and struggling with food like I am.”
Crackers, cookies, and other snacky foods often harbor unhealthy trans fats (a particular type of fatty acid created when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil). A labeling loophole allows food makers to list 0g trans fats if a single serving of the food has less than half a gram. Eat two servings, though (absurdly easy to do with snacks), and you might have consumed nearly half the daily limit of 2 grams. The key to turning this situation around is finding healthy snacks that deliver on convenience, taste, and nutrition.
- Work in healthier alternatives to favorite snacks. If your family loves stuffed pretzel snacks, offer up low-sodium pretzels dipped in peanut butter or a peanut-butter-and-honey mix. Dip apple slices in almond butter instead of chocolaty nut spreads, which can be high in saturated or trans fats.
- Sweet snacks can be healthy, too. Customize your own chocolate bark with dark chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit. You’ll get healthier mono- and polyunsaturated fats from the nuts, and dried fruit can displace some of the chocolate. (See our recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Bark.)
- Pop your own popcorn. Many microwave popcorns have unhealthy saturated and trans fats. You can avoid them by popping your own: Heat kernels (1/4 cup of kernels makes about 8 cups) with a tablespoon or two of toasted sesame oil (a heart-healthy fat) in a Dutch oven over medium heat until they pop; sprinkle lightly with kosher salt for a savory treat. Or if you crave something sweet, pop the corn in peanut oil, and sprinkle on cinnamon sugar. Bonus: Popcorn is a whole grain!