Road Trippin’ Snacks

In my family, we go on vacation together. No. You don’t understand. This is not just immediate family we are talking about. There are around 30 of us who go to the beach (not quite) every year (but usually every other year). You see, years ago my grandparents created this tight knit bond of a family and 40 years later it is still going strong…to the point we vacation as extended-extended families!

Lovin’ their popcorn-in-a-bag

We go to the beach and we don’t live very close SO that means we spend hours in the car…with three kids…who eat A.LOT.OF.FOOD. Honestly, sometimes road trip snacks are to keep kids satiated (feeling full) but sometimes it’s to keep them satisfied (not screaming and crying). You know what? On road trips, that’s definitely OK! You’ve got to survive and as a mom and a dietitian, I get it!!!!!!!

Question is, what should you pack for road trip snacks? Well, I’ve come up with a list of 30 foods that are kid proof (won’t make a huge mess in your car) and adults love them too!!! If you’ve followed me long enough you know there’s at least 1 list in each blog post! Hah! These snacks should be quick to open, easily eaten with the fingers, AND provide nourishment!

Have your kids help! Emma (7) can cut up veggies with a pairing knife!
  1. Carrot sticks. Seriously these are a family favorite and delish! Bag them in small containers or baggies for each member of your family. Really little kiddos? Cut the carrots in to fun strips to reduce choking.
  2. Pepper sticks. Yes kids will eat them too! Try red, orange, or yellow peppers. Super sweet!
  3. Turkey jerky. Beef jerky is a great choice as well. Although expensive, this can be a great protein source…find it on sale!
  4. String cheese. They make tons of flavors so choose your favorite and snack away!
  5. Popcorn. Pop ahead and put them in individual baggies or containers.
  6. Granola bars. Kids Clif bars, Lara bars, and homemade granola bars are my favorite!
  7. Grapes. Make sure you cut them in 1/4ths for babies and toddlers and in half for younger children (choking hazard)
  8. Nuts. Peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews…whichever are your favorites!
  9. Raisins. The to-go boxes are great on the road. Sour raisins are Ah.Maze.Ing!
  10. Cranberries. A little more added sugar than raisins but still a great choice for a road trip
  11. Amanda’s Awesome Trail Mix: 1 cup cheerios, 1/2 cup raisins or cranberries, 1/2 cup nuts of your choice, 1/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. Mix and toss in to snack bags.
  12. Peanut butter bites: Here’s the link to mine. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE BREASTFEEDING TO EAT THESE! My husband loves them (and my kiddos do too)!
  13. Sunflower seeds: not just for salads!
  14. Pumpkin seeds…all the flavors.
  15. Dried whole grain cereal. Seriously. Cheerios in a bag…stellar!
  16. Yogurt pouches! YUM! These portable packs are great for younger kiddos and older ones alike! AND they don’t need to be refrigerated…BONUS!
  17. Fruit/veggie pouches…so many brands/varieties! Choose your favorite grab-and-go flavor.
  18. Cucumber slices. So good and refreshing! Sure you can dip them into hummus or ranch but if you can’t trust yourself or younger kiddos plain cucumbers work great themselves.
  19. Apple slices. Wash and keep the skins on (there are tons of nutrients in the skins) get your kiddos used to it! To keep them from browning on the trip use whole apples for yourself and older kids or slice them and add a little ascorbic acid (vitamin C…name brand “Fruit Fresh”) to keep them from browning.
  20. Mandarines. Easy to peel and sooooo delicious! I like to peel mine ahead of time for the kids and then when they are hungry just hand them a peeled one so they can go to town.
  21. Edamame. Add a little salt and pepper to these amazing soy beans and YUM! These come in the fresh and frozen section. Sometimes when they are frozen, salt has already been added so make sure you check!
  22. Whole grain crackers. My favorites are Triscuits and Wheat Thins but there are tons of brands and varieties that are great and tasty!
  23. Cherries. Especially in season these juicy fruits are great! Just make sure you have something to spit the seeds into.
  24. Roasted chickpeas. So good! They are crunchy and come in tons of flavors.
  25. Pickles. Yep. In a bag. My kids love them! They’re crunchy and salty and ohhh soooo yummy!
  26. Apple chips. These freeze dried fruit crunchies are incredible!!!! You can also pack dehydrated apples. They won’t be as crunchy but they are super sweet and delicious.
  27. Tortilla chips. The varieties are endless. Black bean, blue corn, flavored, extra crunchy…whatever. Although they are fried they’re usually only a few ingredients and if you get the whole grain, bean, or higher fiber varieties they also have some protein in them. I NEVER DO BAKED CHIPS! The ingredient lists go on forever. Regular tortilla chips/potato chips may be fried in oil (which is usually heart healthy) but their 3-5 ingredients makes up for it by not having so many additives. Plus fat isn’t “bad” for you…neither are carbs. Moderation.
  28. Fruit cups. Yes I know with little little kids this is a nightmare but with older kids this is fantastic! Peaches, pears, mandarins, apple sauce…your possibilities are endless!
  29. Turkey rollups. If your cooler game is strong (and I mean very strong like you can keep these under 44 degrees the entire trip) go for it! Roll up a slice of turkey lunch meat with some cheese. If you’re feeling adventurous add honey mustard and a thin slice of cucumber…mmmm
  30. Yogurt. Again, you have to keep these bad boys cool BUT some Greek yogurt on a road trip not only hits the sweet spot but also keeps you fuller longer.
Snacks are better on a shark towel…

I hope this list helped to give you some great ideas on road trip snacks. Instead of loads of candy or tons of processed snacks this list helps to start vacation off on the nutrient rich foot. Look, I’m not judging…I like snacks the same as the rest of the population. I don’t say no to a good Blazin’ Buffalo Dorito (ever). But it helps to take snacks on the road that won’t give the kids a sugar high while you’re cooped up in a car!

Once you get to your destination, nutrition shouldn’t be your top priority…honestly. Enjoy it and your family/friends! Don’t worry about “what” is eaten as much as how it tastes and who is in your company. Calories, carbs, proteins, fats, aren’t my main priority…ESPECIALLY while spending time with family. My family is a healthy group of eaters, balanced with a ton of activity. Our beach house will be filled with people of all ages, love, donuts, gobs, cookies, snacky foods, salads, fruit, shrimp…a lot of shrimp, fun, and laughter.

Enjoy your summer vacation! Make it healthy but don’t obsess about it! Don’t like some of the foods on this list? Don’t eat them! Choose healthy snacks you enjoy. Life is too short and moments are too good to focus on how many calories you eat while life is flying past you. Take healthy road trip snacks and mix it in with other foods too #balance.

Owen and Asher approved ::two thumbs up::

Week 6 Meal Plan

Surprise! There’s actually no “real” meal plan per say  here. You know the drill, you know the deal. I want you to create your own! Sit down with a pen/paper or your computer and come up with your own meal plan for the week (or for next week).

Here are some things to keep in mind:

BREAKFAST:

  • Are you in a hurry or can you take your time?
    • In a hurry:
      • Grab and go things like string cheese and whole grains crackers, apple and string cheese, Kind bar, nuts and dried fruit
    • Take your time:
      • Breakfasts that take more time and can be enjoyed at a slower pace like oatmeal with nuts/fruit, eggs and whole grain toast
  • You always want these to be included:
    • Protein: cheese, peanut butter, nuts, cottage cheese, eggs, hard boiled eggs
    • Carbohydrate with fiber: fruit, whole grain bread, oatmeal, whole grain crackers

LUNCH:

  • Are you in a hurry or can you take your time?
    • In a hurry:
      • Pack a lunch that you can eat in your car, in a meeting, or eat without having to heat up: sandwich, salad, tuna salad/crackers/veggies
    • Take your time:
      • If you have more time to spare think of leftovers or soup
  • You always want these to be included in a balanced lunch:
    • Protein: chicken, fish, turkey, peanut butter, beans, cheese, eggs
    • Carbohydrate with fiber: whole grain bread, brown rice, corn, peas, beans, whole grain crackers, fruit
    • Non-starchy vegetable: lettuce, carrot sticks, celery, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower

DINNER:

  • Are you in a hurry or can you take your time?
    • In a hurry: there’s no shame in eating a sandwich or something quick for dinner!
    • Take your time: if you have more time to make a meal and sit down to eat it that is perfect!
  • You always want these to be included in your dinner:
    • Protein: chicken, fish, turkey, pork chop/loin, lean beef, beans, tofu, eggs
    • Carbohydrate with fiber: quinoa, brown rice, potato, sweet potato, corn, beans, peas
    • Non-starchy vegetable: salad, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower

SNACKS:

  • Should give your body nourishment, not just “fill you up”
  • Think whole foods instead of highly processed foods
  • Think lunch box instead of vending machine
  • Nuts, fruit, veggies, hummus, yogurt, cottage cheese

You CAN do this. You CAN and you WILL and you are ABLE.

Week 2 Challenge: Be Balanced

You can think you are eating the best diet but if you are missing foods or if you are not balancing your meals and snacks you may find yourself engulfed in cravings.

Every so often a new wave of fad diets come in the scene and it takes years to phase out. Low fat diets and low carb diets, especially, have distorted our view of eating foods that are actually quite good for us! Here’s a quick list of different foods and why they are so awesome for our bodies.

  • Fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and carbohydrates for energy
  • Vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and tons of fiber. There are two types that give our bodies different benefits.
    • Starchy vegetables have a good source of carbohydrates for energy (like potatoes, yams, and winter squash like pumpkin and butternut squash).
    • Non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes have a small amount of carbohydrates but are loaded with filling fiber.
  • Whole grains have been given a bad rap but these gems of the plant world are great sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Don’t box yourself in with just wheat either. Whole grains include oats, barley, quinoa, amaranth, farro, brown rice, black rice, and wild rice.
  • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are incredible little wonders of the nutrition world. They are super high in protein…I mean really high. They are also rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Nuts are a food group you don’t want to miss out on (unless of course you are allergic then by all means please miss out!). These foods are unique in that they have a great amount of protein and also super heart healthy fats along with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Animal products are not necessary to a diet but can provide some health benefits. Fish is an incredible addition to your diet, especially cold water fish. They have omega-3 fatty acids, protein, sometimes calcium and vitamin D. Other meats (chicken, turkey, beef, pork) are rich in zinc, B12, and protein. Dairy products like yogurt and kefir are loaded with probiotics which help your gut.

Why all this? Because you need to know that all foods are important to keeping you healthy. Your body relies on nourishment that you give it. Without a good balance of all of the above foods, your body isn’t getting the nourishment it deserves.

Check out the tips to understand a balanced diet!

Season of Thankfulness: Snacking

Snacking throughout the day can be one of the most important things you do for your health. If you are trying to lose weight or have diabetes, snacking can help you control your appetite and your blood sugars.

Finding the right snacks; however, can be a challenge. If a vending machine is close by, you know that perhaps snacking isn’t your best move of day. Packing or having nutrient rich snacks on hand is going to be the secret to snack-cess (yep, see what I just did there?).

Eating every 3-4 hours is quite important. Your body actually expects you fuel it because your stomach empties every 2 hours (give or take) so by the time 3-4 hours rolls around your body is looking for more fuel. This doesn’t mean you have to eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT! Unless you do then by all means, proceed! It does mean keeping small snacks (about 100-200 calories) with you so that when your next meal rolls around you are not ravenous and making poor food choices.

“Good” snacks:

  • Give your body something it needs (not something it wants)
  • Give your body something it is missing (not something it is craving)
  • Give your body fulfillment (not an empty feeling in a few minutes)
  • Give your body energy (not a sugar/caffeine high)

What falls into those categories? Here’s a list of 25 awesome snacks (not just boring ones) for you to “chew on”:

  1. Fresh fruits. They’re already packed and ready to go! (apples, bananas, oranges, clementines, peaches, pears)
  2. Dried fruits. 100 calorie packs of raisins, cranberries, prunes, or other dried (not fried) fruits are great pick me ups!
  3. Fresh veggies. This requires more planning ahead but carrot sticks, celery sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, etc are wonderful crunchy additions to your day.
  4. Steamed veggies. Sounds weird but they make single serving steamed veggies that, if you have a microwave and enjoy the cooked veggie variety, can be a great mid-afternoon nosh!
  5. String cheese. Let’s face it, 90% of the population loves cheese (I totally made that up). String cheese is super lean and provides your body protein and calcium!
  6. Other portion controlled cheeses. Besides the string variety, many companies are making 90 calorie packs of your favorite variety of cheese. Again providing your body protein and calcium.
  7. Nuts. These nutrient rich poppable palate pleasers come in a variety of types and even some awesome flavors. The 100 calorie packs make them portion controlled and easy to carry around.
  8. Yogurt. Preferably Greek yogurt because it will give your body more protein. Other yogurts are good too because of the live bacteria that will help your gut. Remember that yogurt naturally has sugar so don’t be alarmed when you see the amount of sugar on the food label. In a typical 5.3 oz container of Greek yogurt you are looking at around 6 grams of natural sugar in the product. If it has real fruit, there’s more natural sugar.
  9. Cottage cheese. Packed with protein and calcium this wonderful little snack pairs really well with fruit. Watch the sodium content though! If you are salt sensitive try to choose a brand that has less salt added. Go for 2% cottage cheese instead of full fat or fat free.
  10. Hard boiled eggs. These egg-tastic snacks are full of protein, vitamin D, lutein, and zeaxanthin (antioxidants found in the yolk). The whites are 100% protein but do miss out on some of those key vitamins and antioxidants found in the yolk.
  11. Deviled eggs. They are for more than just summer picnics! This spices up the hard boiled egg. Try mixing the yolk with 1/2 the amount of mayonnaise and use plain Greek yogurt or a mashed avocado for added volume. Dijon mustard instead of yellow mustard adds a kick and instead of plain paprika to make it pretty try adding smoked paprika.
  12. Hummus and veggies. If you haven’t tried hummus yet, go for it! If you don’t like regular hummus try a flavored one. My favorite is roasted red pepper. Hummus is pureed chickpeas so it is loaded with protein, fiber, and other nutrients.
  13. String cheese and pickles. One of my favorites! This is not for the salt sensitive person. Mix that with a little dijon mustard and you’ve got yourself one gourmet snack!
  14. Cheese and apples or pears. Delicious! This salty and sweet snack hits just about every taste bud. Keep the cheese to around 1 oz portion (size of string cheese or 4 dice put together)
  15. Peanut butter (or other nut butters) and apples. This all time favorite can be taken one step further by melting the peanut butter ever so slightly and sprinkling in a little cinnamon in it…then dip the apple. Get a napkin, you’re drooling.
  16. Peanut butter and bananas. Sure this Elvis favorite is a classic but let’s take this one a step further too. Instead of ants on a log with celery, peanut butter, and raisins, lets do ants on a log with a banana cut in half long ways peanut butter on the flat part and raisins.
  17. Celery and peanut butter. Kids and adults both rave over this one! You can even try celery with plain Greek yogurt (mix in a little dry ranch dressing mix to the yogurt and BAM one amazing snack).
  18. Rolled up turkey lunch meat. I like this one because it’s easy, packed with protein, and I like to “dip”. Dip this in yellow mustard, dijon mustard, or grain mustard and it becomes fancier than you’d think.
  19.  Popcorn. They make 100 calorie bags which are great to control portions. Plain air popped popcorn is 3 cups for 1 serving. If you like a little flavor to your popcorn think about adding Old Bay, parmesan cheese, or if you are a fancy foodie – dehydrated vinegar.
  20. Granola bars. But not just any old granola bars. Look for ones with at least 3 grams of fiber for about 100 calories, lowest amount of sugar, and whole food ingredients. My favorite are Kind and Kashi. Remember this is a snack, not a meal replacement. I’m not a big fan of meal replacement bars (100-200 calories).
  21. Trail mix. Make your own! Think energy, protein, and fun. Energy can come from dried whole grain cereal, dried fruit, popcorn, or a mix of all 3. Protein can come from nuts or seeds. Fun comes in all shapes and sizes but personally I prefer dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate mini-chips. My favorite trail mix recipe is: Cheerios (1 cup), dried cranberries (1/2 cup), walnuts pieces (1/4 cup), and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/8 cup). Makes about 2-4 servings (2 servings 200 calories each or 4 servings 100 calories each).
  22. Veggies and Greek yogurt dip. Grab a 5.3 oz plain Greek yogurt container and add your favorite dried ranch dressing or dip mix (you can make your own too). Add enough dip mix to get flavor into that yogurt and go to town on your favorite dip-able veggies! Broaden your horizons and try jicama (hee-kama), kohlrabi, parsnips, and turnips in your dip! They are crunchy, delicious, and have more nutrients than potato chips.
  23. Oatmeal. I know it sounds weird but this breakfast favorite can be a great, warm, soothing snack on a cold day. Watch the sugar on some of the packaged ones. Make your own by adding some walnuts, cranberries, and cinnamon with a splash of honey!
  24. Seeds (pumpkin and sunflower). These gems are easy to make at home or on the shelves year round to buy. Great for munching or pairing with raisins like a trail mix.
  25. Frozen yogurt. Not like you’re thinking. Take your favorite Greek yogurt, throw it in the freezer and in a few hours you’ve got an incredible, creamy, flavorful frozen treat!

Let us know, what are some of your favorite healthy snacks?

Simply Eat Better

There is so much information out there about how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. The do’s, don’ts, rules, regulations, and laws are just enough to make you crazy! Much of the nutrition information out there isn’t even from someone legit. Side note: I’m not here to call out the fakes although some days I would like to, I’m here to give you feasible and educated information so that you can work through it to find whats best to move your health forward.

There’s no cookie cutter right way or wrong way of eating. There’s no perfect diet and that’s the great thing about nutrition! It’s always a journey to be better, to eat better. I don’t want to tell you what to eat, I simply want to give guidance and recommendations letting you choose what to change.

Here are 10 simple guidelines for a better diet:

  1. Eat less. Even if that’s all you change, just eating less will improve your overall health because chances are you eat more than you should. This not only helps with weight management but studies show that being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. Try smaller plates, keeping food in the kitchen instead of on the table, and ordering smaller sizes at restaurants.
  2. Eat more often. Eating every 3-4 hours helps to keep you from getting ravenously hungry and lets your metabolism run smoothly. Small nutrient rich snacks in between meals are key. Think about foods like nuts, seeds, yogurt, string cheese, fruit, and veggies.
  3. Slow down. Enjoy the flavors of your food. It should take you 15-30 minutes to eat a meal. As a mom of  twins and a four year old sometimes when I give that advice I think HAH yeah right! But seriously food should be savored not scarfed. When is the last time you truly smelled, tasted, and felt what you were eating? Food is as much for nourishment as it is for the soul.
  4. Eat more vegetables. The recommendations are to eat at least 3 servings daily. If you can get more than 3 servings that is AWESOME! Eat up! 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup lightly steamed or raw are considered servings. Lunch and dinner are perfect for vegetables but there’s no stopping you from sauteing mushrooms and spinach with your eggs for breakfast or crunching on some snap peas with hummus for a snack.
  5. Eat just enough fruits. Shoot for at least 2 daily. Local seasonal fruits are packed with nutrients and super delicious! Blueberries in the summer, apples in the fall, tropical fruit in the winter, strawberries in the spring. Head to your local farmers market for the best deals and watch the sale adds in your grocery store for budgeting.
  6. Work in some whole grains. Don’t box yourself into just whole wheat. I mean, wheat is fine but branch out a bit! Think about barley, farro, buckwheat, quinoa, corn, brown and black rice…the list could go on! Whole grains provide tons of fiber, protein, and B vitamins. Get as whole as possible!
  7. Forget the fat fear. Fat should not be avoided! Especially plant fats. Eat avocados, olives, oils, nuts, and/or seeds regularly. Animal fats like butter, sour cream, and cream cheese are fine in small amounts. Try to buy organic animal products when possible. That’s a post for another day!
  8. Spice it up! Instead of adding a ton of salt to food try herbs and spices. I’ve used Gourmet Garden’s guide when trying new ones http://www.gourmetgarden.com/en/herb-guide.  I think it’s the most helpful pairing guide out there.
  9. Love the legumes. Beans, peas, and lentils are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients. Not only are they amazing for your health but they are budget friendly. Legumes go great in soups, salads, and side dishes. Because they are so high in protein you can use them instead of meat!
  10. Go to a dietitian and talk about your nutrition goals. When looking for the best nutrition advice do not go to a doctor, chiropractor, “nutritionist”, health coach, or any other self proclaimed nutrition guru. I promise that I have made right so many wrongs from past clients that have gone to these people about their diets first. Interested in seeing a dietitian, check out: http://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert. Look for the credentials “RDN” (Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist), “RD” (Registered Dietitian), “LD” (Licensed Dietitian), or “LDN” (Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist).

Diet isn’t a four letter word. Diet is simply what you eat day in and day out. Having a love hate relationship with food is no way to live. Enjoy food and be comfortable with it and around it. Health and wellness isn’t about torturing your body, starving yourself, avoiding food, and guilt trips. It’s about saddling up for a delicious adventure that will take you from where you are to a healthier you.

Final thoughts: I don’t know where each and every one of you are at on your journey through the wide world of nutrition but I do know this: I’ve been a dietitian for over a decade and I’ve talked to many people. The ones who are willing to take the guidance, take action, take the steps to improve their diet, and take accountability for choices are the ones who continue to progress towards a healthy eating pattern.

Nutrition Challenge: this week take a look at your diet and decide what you’d like to change about it. Work on one change that is most important to you.