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We’re always in need of convenient lunch and snack options, which tend to be not only heavily processed, but expensive. When we think lunch, a sandwich is often the first thing that comes to mind, and when thinking snacks, pretzels, crackers, and chips are the most common “snack foods.”
First, it’s important to recognize that whole foods can be just as easy and convenient. Healthy snacks can become half a baked sweet potato, a piece of fruit, cut veggies, popcorn, edamame, roasted chick peas, or even salad to name a few. Lunch can be equally convenient, especially if you prepare extra for dinner with leftovers in mind. If you are navigating the snack and/or bread aisle, here are some things to keep in mind.
1.) First you’ll want to check the ingredients for added fat, which tends to be higher in processed lunch and snack products. Added fat includes any type of oil, (olive, canola, peanut, flax, safflower, sesame, ext.) or dairy butter. With processed foods, we recommend that a product contain no more than 15-20% of total calories per serving, unless there is fat coming from a whole food source, such as from nuts. Overall, however, fat calories in your diet should not exceed should not exceed this range. To figure this out, multiply fat grams x 9, and divide by total calories. Refer to reading labels Part 1 for tips on added sugars, and try to find products with 4 grams or less per serving.
2.) If the label does include nuts or nut butters, make sure the nuts aren’t roasted in oil and have no added oils. You can find this in parentheses following the ingredient, which will look something like this: “Roasted Peanuts (peanuts and/or high oleic sunflower oil) or Sweetened Cranberries (cranberries, sugar, sunflower oil).”
3.) Your sodium content should be within a 1:1 ratio with calories. For example, if the calories per serving are 250, your sodium should generally be less than 250 milligrams. Your total sodium intake should never exceed your total calories per day, and should ideally be much less.
4.) The fewer the ingredients, the better, which means the ingredients should be familiar. If the ingredient isn’t familiar, it is most likely a preservative, added fat, or sugar. Less is more.
Bread: Choose breads that use 100% whole grains. Always look for whole grains, sometimes written as rolled, stone ground, or cracked. Avoid the words: wheat flour, enriched wheat flour, white flour, fortified, enriched, or unbleached wheat flour. Here are some breads and crackers you might consider:
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