Snacks are taking a bigger bite out of our total daily calorie budget than ever before. In fact, according to the What We Eat in America, NHANES 2011-2012 national nutrition survey, some 24 percent of our daily calories -- about 440 and 615 calories for women and men respectively -- come from our between-meal noshes. What's more, snacks provide an outsized 37 percent of total sugars in the diet.
According to the Nielsen Global Snacking Survey in 2014, Americans' most popular snack choices include salty chips, chocolate, cheese and cookies. Since we eat only about half of the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables, while we get 2-3 times as much added sugar, more fat and sodium than we need, enjoying produce snacks, in place of nutrient-poor options, will instantly upgrade your diet.
One of my nutrition "rules" I live by is to always have a serving of fruit or veggies as their snacks. My gym bag always has an apple, banana or clementines in it as I find those fruits travel well and are easy to eat when I'm time-pressed and on-the-go.
The good news is that produce companies are offering many new options for ready-to-eat produce picks for healthier nibbles. Here are five of my favorite produce picks to keep on hand so you won't need to hit the office vending machine or candy bowl for your afternoon pick-me-up.
1. Naturipe Ready-to-Eat Fresh Blueberries
Delicate blueberries aren't the most travel-worthy fresh fruit snack, but these washed and ready-to-eat blueberries are sold in rigid single-serve packages so they can go anywhere you do. They're great to pack in lunch, gym or work bags.
While most bars are loaded with added sugars, these bars are virtually all dried fruit with a little fruit or veggie juice concentrate used for color and texture--not to provide sugar. They're available in cherry, mango and apple flavors, they count toward one of your fruit servings.
3. Sunsweet Ones
These individually wrapped prunes are a convenient way to satisfy you're craving for something sweet while getting a produce serving. I keep them in my car and in my carry-on bag when flying as it's often hard to get produce snacks when traveling. They have 25 calories each (four equal a full fruit serving), and are a good source of fiber and antioxidants.
4. Woot Froot
Love fresh peaches and nectarines but worried about traveling with these delicate fruits and how messy they can be to eat? Now there's a solution. Woot Froot provides pre-washed and sliced preservative-free peaches and nectarines that are perfect for snacking and won't leave your hands a sticky mess.
5. NatureSweet Cherriots
Grape tomatoes are a satisfying snack we often overlook. Cherriots make snacking on them easy. Combine with a low-fat Ranch dip or enjoy over cottage cheese for a protein-packed energy boost.
What We Eat In America, NHANES 2011-2012
Nielsen Global Snacking Survey, Q1 2014
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