“Our family loves sweets, cookies, and chips of every kind.” - Monica Ingles: Age 38, Cake Shop Owner, Farmington HIlls, Mich.

HER CHALLENGE

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.”

OUR ADVICE

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!