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A snack is a portion of food, often smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals. Snacks come in a variety of forms including packaged snack foods and other processed foods, as well as items made from fresh ingredients at home.

Traditionally, snacks are prepared from ingredients commonly available in the home. Often cold cuts, fruit, leftovers, nuts, sandwiches, and the like are used as snacks. The Dagwood sandwich was originally the humorous result of a cartoon character's desire for large snacks. With the spread of convenience stores, packaged snack foods became a significant business. Snack foods are typically designed to be portable, quick, and satisfying. Processed snack foods, as one form of convenience food, are designed to be less perishable, more durable, and more portable than prepared foods. They often contain substantial amounts of sweeteners, preservatives, and appealing ingredients such as chocolate, peanuts, and specially-designed flavors (such as flavored potato chips).

Beverages, such as coffee, are not generally considered snacks though they may be consumed along with or in lieu of snack foods.

A snack eaten shortly before going to bed or during the night may be called a midnight snack.

I’ve snacked on raw almonds before. They’re a great mid-afternoon snack. But, a few days ago a friend and I were in Whole Foods and I picked up a bag of tamari almonds out of curiosity. They looked intriguing because they look just like regular almonds but they are a dark, burnt-sienna color (sorry, Crayola) with a light dusting of a powder of some sort. My friend assured me that they were excellent, and told me that he eats them “all the time.”

So, I decided to give ‘em a try.

I love trying new things – especially when they turn out to be really good. It’s wonderful when you find new foods that you can add to your eating repertory, because variety is the spice of life. And, so these tamari almonds turned out to be a great find for me. They’ve got the nutty mild almond taste that we all love, but it’s “kicked up” a little (sorry, Emeril) with some exotic spice. But, don’t worry – they aren’t traditionally “spicy.”

I’m going to write another post on what tamari actually is – it turns out its something that you are already familiar with, but with just a different name (and different form), and it’s healthy too! If you don’t know what tamari is, just go out and try some tamari almonds and see if you like them. Trust me, and be brave! And, check back – I’ll do a post on tamari and reveal the big mystery!

The Top 5 Health Benefits of Cinnamon

You probably didn’t even know cinnamon was good for you! It turns out that cinnamon has some surprising potential health benefits.

#1: Preliminary results from studies have indicated that cinnamon has antifungal, antibacterial and antiparasitic properties. Cinnamon has been found to be effective in fighting vaginal yeast infections, oral yeast infections, stomach ulcers and head lice.

#2: Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties. Many of us eat lots of fried, fatty and processed foods, and these foods cause inflammation of our internal tissues and organs, and this inflammation has been linked to one of the most life-threatening diseases of our time – heart disease. Andrew Weil, M.D. writes on the topic of anti-inflammatory diets as a means of reducing our chances of suffering heart attacks, strokes and heart disease. This is from his book Natural Health, Natural Medicine:

“A growing consensus among cardiologists pinpoints abnormal inflammation in artery walls as a root cause of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.”

So, cinnamon could be a potential ally in our fight to decrease inflammation

#3: Cinnamon may actually help people with Type 2 diabetes control blood sugar levels, and may significantly lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides (fatty acids in the blood). A now almost famous study, was conducted by researchers from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2003 that showed that 60 people in Pakistan who had Type 2 diabetes, who ate 1 gram of cinnamon each day over a period of 40 days, experienced a significant decrease in their blood sugar levels, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides.


Traveling somewhere this winter? Don’t take off without reading this…

Whenever you fly, it’s a good idea to pack your carry-on bag with a healthy snack. Flights usually don’t serve real food anymore, and those little free cocktail nut or snack mix bags they give out are usually too salty or just too darn unsatisfying. You could wait and pick something up at the airport, but then there’s a chance you won’t find anything particularly healthy, and you may end up impulse-buying a candy bar (which will give you a short-lived sugar high instead of real sustenance). Flying is definitely one area where planning your snack ahead of time is key. (See Chris’s post on the importance of deciding your snacks in advance.) 

So what should you bring? I suggest dried cherries. That may seem like a random choice, but they’re a super flight food because they not only help stave off hunger (fruit has fiber that helps fill you up), but—get this—they may also help stave off jet lag. Yep, jet lag. According to a New York Times article I came across a while back, cherries have melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland. Russel Reiter, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at the University of Texas Health and Science Center, is quoted in the article as explaining that melatonin is absorbed into your blood stream and helps regulate your biological clock; thus, getting a little extra melatonin from cherries can possibly help you feel more awake during, and after your travels.

Here’s the lowdown on why almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, and pistachios are good for you… and why peanuts didn’t make the list.

Okay, here’s the honest truth: I’d eat nuts whether they’re good for me or not. But, it does make me feel better to know that they are indeed nutritious. Here are four particularly healthy kinds and their benefits.


Almonds are small but they’re packed with nutrients. According to Men’s Health, 1 ounce of almonds provides 50 percent of your daily value of vitamin E, 8 percent of your calcium (more than any other nut), and 10 percent of magnesium. Vitamin E is important because it’s an antioxidant that can help protect cells and thus possibly protect against heart disease and cancer. Almonds are also a good source of protein, which helps fill you up, gives you energy, and helps your muscles develop. And they have fat, but it’s mostly monounsaturated fat—the good fat—which may help lower cholesterol. (Justin’s makes single-serving almond butter packs that are healthy and very tasty!)


The special thing about walnuts is that they containomega-3 fatty acids (the kind also found in fish). Omega-3 fatty acids help your heart and blood vessels function. In fact, according to medical expert Dr. Andrew Weil, the FDA has approved the claim that eating 1.5 oz of walnuts daily as part of a low saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Walnuts also have protein and monounsaturated fat. 

Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are high in selenium, another powerful antioxidant. And again, they have protein and mono fats.

The harvest season has ended and the cold air now sneaks into open doorways and nooks. This year’s soybean crop has been gathered and now is the time to prepare the crop to “transform with the seasons.”

It is 7th century Japan. Buddhism has been introduced in Japan for only several decades. The Buddhist monks in Japan have brought with them, from China, the fine art and secrets of miso-making.

The kitchen in the pagoda is warmed by the wood fires whose flames dance under the bellies of heavy black cauldrons that are filled with soybeans. These will simmer for many hours.

When the fires burn out, the beans are left to cool. After cooling, the beans are arranged on a special floor and mashed under foot by Buddhist monks, perhaps a precursor to the ceremonial foot pressing of wine grapes.

After the beans are gently mashed they are mixed with a grain called koji, which, when exposed to moisture develops mold spores that contain enzymes that create a unique fermentation process which “brews” the bean mash into a salty, pasty substance which is called miso.

The monks mix the koji with the warm mashed beans and then transfer the mixture into cedar “aging barrels” to “transform with the seasons.” The beans literally transform with the seasons because the fermentation period can be as long as one to three years.

During the aging process, a thick, dark and salty liquid gathers, or “accumulates” in the barrels around the miso paste.

This “accumulated” liquid is tamari. Tamari is a word that is derived from the Japanese verb “tamaru,” which means “to accumulate.”

When the seasons have changed and repeated, the monks gather around to uncork the barrels and witness the blessing of the nourishing, and medicinal miso and tamari.

This is the ancient Japanese art of miso and tamari.

Spice It Up

Grizzlie's Granola

Looking to shake things up a bit in the New Year? Abandon your bland rice cakes for a more fun and flavorful snack. I particularly like the curry cashew trail mix from Grizzlie’s Granolas. It’s a delicious medley of all-natural ingredients: curry cashews, roasted almonds, walnuts, raisins, fruit-juice sweetened cranberries, apples, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. The curry not only gives the cashews a nice kick, but also adds certain health benefits. For example, according to some studies, curry may help prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s, and may treat inflammation. Also, I’ve heard that when you eat spicy food, it fills you up fasterso you don’t overeat. I can always use help in that department!

Happy 09!

Just a quick warning to our readers that  many snack foods containing peanut butter have been recalled due to the recent salmonella outbreak.

Clif and Luna bars containing peanut butter have been recalled, as well as Nutrisystem’s Peanut Butter Granola Bars, Nature’s Path’s Peanut Butter Optimum Energy Bars, ZonePerfect Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars and Peanut Toffee Bars, NutriPals Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars, Little Debbie’s Peanut Butter Toast and Peanut Butter Cheese Sandwich Crackers, and Kellogg’s Austin and Keebler Peanut Butter Cookies, along with many, many other peanut butter products.

Go to FDA.gov for a complete list of peanut butter product recalls, and more info on each one.

When in doubt, throw it out!

Be well

A Date with Chocolate

Sticking to your New Year’s resolutions doesn’t mean you have to give up chocolate. (How depressing would that be?) Plenty of companies make healthy chocolatey snacks. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, you can munch on chocolate-covered pepitas or a vitamin-packed chocolate muffin. And here’s a new idea: try an all-natural chocolate-nut energy bar. Three different brands now make chocolate-nut bars that are simple and contain six ingredients or fewer. (That’s a nice change from Atkins and Balance Bars that have tons of unpronounceable ingredients!) Here’s some quick info on each bar.

Larabar’s Jocalat Chocolate6 ingredients: Organic dates, organic almonds, organic walnuts, organic cocoa powder, organic cocoa mass, organic cashews. 190 calories, 10 grams of fat.

NectarClif’s Nectar’s Dark Chocolate Walnut: 5 ingredients: Organic dates, organic walnuts, organic unsweetened chocolate, organic cocoa, organic vanilla. 160 calories, 6 grams of fat.

Chocolada WalnutDr. Weil/Nature’s Path’s Chocolada Walnut: 6 ingredients: Organic dates, organic almonds, organic dried unsweetened coconut, organic walnuts, organic natural cocoa, organic vanilla extract. 190 calories, 10 grams of fat.

This morning, The Today Show with Hoda and Kathy Lee had an interesting segment on losing weight by snacking. Nutritionist Lisa Dryer said that many people cut out snacking to lose weight, but that this is not a good idea, because your blood sugar gets low and then you may overeat during meals. But that doesn’t mean you should snack on just anything. Dryer gave some tips on choosing the right snacks that will keep you satisfied and healthy between meals. For example, she recommended munching on pistachios, because they can actually help reduce stress (better than reaching for the Ben and Jerry’s when you’re tense…). She also said that choosing puffier foods helps you feel full without ingesting as many calories, and she explained that oils with healthy fats can reduce cravings. Click the picture above or click here to watch the full segment and also read the accompanying article, "Pig out! Drop 10 Pounds by Snacking." The article gets into more detail about eating puffy foods, and also mentions the health benefits of thick foods (like yogurt and pudding) and spicy snacks.

Need some suggestions for puffy snacks? Write me a comment letting me know you’d like to see more about them on the blog, and I’ll add them to my lineup!

We found a cool article today that we thought you’d enjoy…

It reveals the healthy snack choices of some of Hollywood’s hottest actresses, music’s biggest stars and of course, super models!

Here’s the quick wrap up:

Jennifer Aniston:  low-salt, low-sugar and un-processed whole foods (she didn’t give any specific snacks, so that stinks!)

Jennifer Hudson:  plain, non-fat Greek yogurt with frozen berries

Katy Perry:  grilled chicken and soy milk, never any potato chips and never any fried foods

Jennifer Garner:  apples, yogurt and boysenberries, celery with almond butter

Cindy Crawford:  fresh veggies, fresh and dried fruits, crisp breads with low-fat cheese and yogurt

Tyra Banks:  fresh-cut fruits and veggies, especially papaya slices

Post image for Bedtime Snacks That Help You Sleep Better

What to Eat to Help You Sleep Better

Bedtime snacks can help you sleep better?Conventional wisdom says you’re not supposed to eat right before you go to bed. That’s supposed to be the worst time to eat, the time it all goes to your waistline.

But lately I’ve been hearing that it can begood to snack before bed, especially if you have insomnia. My cousin tells me that Cream of Wheat before bed helps her child fall asleep. And a Tylenol PM commercial claims that adults should have a bowl of cereal before bed to improve their sleep.


I decided to look into this a bit more, and I found two good articles on the topic. One is a WebMD article that explains why bedtime snacks can indeed help you sleep. It has to do with your metabolic hormones. If you don’t have enough leptin, the hormone that signals satiety, your body could wake you up. However, the article says that you can’t snack on just anything; you have to choose your snacks wisely. Light dairy and carbohydrate-rich snacks are the way to go. The second article I found, from MedicineNet, also talks about the benefits of snacking before bed, but this one gets into more detail about what to eat and what to avoid.


Here’s a brief summary of the best and worst bedtime snacks, based on the two articles.

Many of us have been coupon-collecting lately in an effort to reduce our grocery bills. I recently learned about an excellent Web site that makes it easy to find coupons for your favorite products and stores. It’s called Coupon Cabin, and you should definitely check it out!  Go to the site and click on “grocery coupons.” You’ll find coupons from a variety of healthy-snack makers, including Cascadian Farms, Nature Valley (which makes my favorite granola bars—I always eat one before a long run or race), Organic Valley, Quaker, SoyJoy, Stoneyfield Farm, and more.

Healthy snacks, especially organic ones, are often more expensive than processed snacks and junk food. And I know everyone is trying to save money these days. But hopefully these coupons will be helpful, and you won’t have to give up some of your favorite good-for-you treats.

(Thanks to DailyCandy, the e-mail newsletter I subscribe to, for tipping me off about Coupon Cabin!)


It may not feel like it yet, but this Friday, March 20th is technically the first day of spring. Rita’s Ices is celebrating with an Italian Ice giveaway! Stop by one of their stores from noon until 10 p.m. on Friday and receive a free 10-oz ice. Yum! (Note to all you healthy snackers: Rita’s has seven sugar-free flavors of ice. And the store has other guilt-free treats like Slenderita, fat-free frozen custard.) To find a store near you, go to their Web site and enter your zip code.


PS My favorite flavor of ice is chocolate (big surprise). What’s yours? Vote below! If you pick "other," write a comment and tell me what it is.

In my post on maple walnuts, I promised that I would eventually write about chocolate, almonds, and sea salt, which go marvelously well together. So, voilà: a recipe for chocolate, almond, and sea salt crostini. The recipe is mostly Amanda Hesser’s, from her book Cooking for Mr. Latte, but I’ve added the slivered almonds. These crostini are deliciously sweet, salty, crunchy, and healthy! Make a slice for yourself if you have extra baguette lying around, or buy a whole baguette and make the full recipe for company!  Your guests will be impressed—these crostini seem unique and are so flavorful, yet they’re really quite simple to put together.

Recipe: Chocolate, Almond, and Sea Salt Crostini

  1. Make chocolate crostini according to Amanda Hesser’s recipe (she calls them chocolate sea salt toasts). Here are Hesser’s instructions:
    • Preheat your oven to 350 F.
    • Cut a thin baguette diagonally into ¼ inch wedge slices.
    • Place the slices on a baking sheet and top each one with a thin square of bittersweet chocolate (not more than a mouthful of chocolate on each slice).
    • Place them in the oven, and take them out when the chocolate is melted but still holding its shape.
    • Put them on a platter, and sprinkle them with extra virgin olive oil and fleur de sel or coarse sea salt. (And as Hesser says, don’t add too much oil or salt–do it to taste. The salt is not supposed to make these taste salty; its purpose it to bring out  the taste of the chocolate.)
  2. Then, my add-on: top each one off with a small sprinkling of slivered, toasted almonds. I like Blue Diamond slivered almonds. I toast them separately in the toaster oven and then add them on when the chocolate crostini come out of the oven. (If you cook the almonds with the chocolate, they won’t be done when the chocolate is done.).
  3. Pass them around and enjoy!


I have to be honest here–I really debated whether or not to post about healthy chocolate snacks for Valentine’s Day. This is The Healthy Snacks Blog, and Saturday is V-Day, so it makes sense… but here’s the problem: I don’t believe in healthy snacks for Valentine’s Day. I think you’re allowed to splurge on holidays and other occasions! (Especially on a  holiday in which chocolate plays such a big role…) Still, I realize that some people have dietary restrictions and always need healthier options. So here are two brands I recommend for those of you who are addicted to chocolate but want or need to stay on your health kick come February14th.

Gayle’s Miracles Dark Chocolate Truffles. These are tasty, soft chocolate truffles created by a nutritionist. Each one has only 30 calories and 1 gram of fat. Two truffles equal 1 Weight Watcher point. Many other truffles by companies like Lindt have over twice that number of calories and three times as much fat. So how does Gayle’s manage to make chocolate that tastes good but is low in calories? Remember my post about chocolate bars, where I explain that some companies use dates  to make chocolate products healthier? Gayle’s Miracles does something similar, but they use figs instead of dates. I noticed figs on their ingredient list, and I think that’s the secret ingredient that helps them achieve a soft center without all the butter and fat. 

nana'sMy husband used to laugh at me for buying healthy cookies. “The whole point of eating cookies is to indulge,” he’d say. “They’re supposed to be rich and buttery.”

Then he tried a Nana’s chocolate chip cookie.

I shouldn’t say he tried one. He ate the whole cookie—my cookie, the one that I was just about to put in my mouth. I wasn’t very pleased.

“I thought you don’t like healthy cookies,” I said.

“These are good!” he replied. “Wow, I can’t believe how healthy these are for you,” he said over and over, reading the back panel.


Yes, they are good for you. The Original Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (the flavor he was enjoying) have very healthy ingredients, including whole wheat flour, rolled oats, fruit juice, rice dextrin, non-gmo expeller pressed canola oil, chocolate chips, walnuts, non-aluminum baking powder, natural flavoring, and sea salt. And they have a great, chewy, sweet, crumbly, natural flavor and texture. They don’t taste too dry, fake, grainy, or overly sweet, as some healthy cookies do. The one downside is that they’re very caloric (the chocolate-chip ones have 210 calories and 9 grams fat for only half of a cookie), so eat 1/2 a cookie for a light snack, or eat the whole thing when you need a more substantial snack. They do satisfy your hunger, and they come in great flavors besides chocolate chip, such as oatmeal raisin, sunflower (another one of my favorites), peanut butter, cranberry orange, coconut chip, ginger, and double chocolate. They also have wheat-free and gluten-free cookie varieties.


In my post on the health benefit of nuts, I mentioned how the snack-sized bags of nuts you get at a deli always contain around three portions, more than you need. So sometimes I’d by big bags of nuts and divvy them out into single servings in ziplok bags.

Well, I don’t have to waste my time doing that anymore now that I’ve discovered the company Peeled. They make exactly what I’d been looking for—single-serving, one-ounce bags of nuts.

The dry-roasted cashews, cleverly called Cashew Later, have 180 calories, 14 grams of fat (good fat), 4 grams of protein, 120 mg of sodium, and 8 percent of your daily iron. The natural almonds, called Almond-daze, have 170 calories, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, 230 mg of sodium, 6 percent of your daily iron, and 8 percent of your daily calcium. I love the almonds. The cashews are a bit too salty for my taste, but I do like the dry-roasted flavor. The portion sizes are just right.

Healthy snacks for the car!

When I was in fifth grade, my friend’s parents took me on vacation with them to Chincoteague, VA.  We were eating snacks in the back of the car.  I ripped open a bag of pretzels the wrong way, and they exploded all over the back seat.  Crumbs and salt everywhere.  Took a while to clean up that mess.

Now I’m more careful when I eat in the car, and when I pack snacks for my family.  I try not to bring anything that will make too many crumbs.  (Even when I open pretzels the right way, they can still be too messy, depending on the kind.)  I also avoid snacks that are too sticky and/or too stinky!  And I avoid anything that would go bad quickly or need refrigeration (I don’t usually bring a cooler).

So what does that leave?  I usually stick with healthy granola bars (chewy, not crunchy—the crunchy ones can be so crumbly).  I also pack Ziplocs of trail mix, fruit snacks, carrots, or sliced apples or grapes, if I know I won’t have them out for too long.

Here are some other good ideas for healthy (and non-messy) car snacks for you and your little ones, from Disney Family.Com. Happy Travels!

– Lauren A.

If you have any good ideas for healthy, non-messy road trip snacks for kids, leave a comment for us below.

Today’s post is written by Registered Dietician, Allison Stowell, MS, RD, CDN on behalf of Guiding Stars.

I truly believe that the right snacks can make or break your day. Go too long between meals and you are probably going to overeat …choose a poor snack and you will likely have the same result (plus 100 calories or so).

But choose the right snack and you create a nutritious bridge from meal to meal that sustains you, controls hunger, appetite, fatigue and even mood. The Guiding Stars star-rated snack suggestions below are ideal because they include carbohydrate, protein and fat, which is a combination that will leave you satisfied. They are also great for your next summer trip as they fit into a small bag or drink cooler.

Here are 10 healthy snacks for summer travel that all earn Guiding Stars:

  1. Non-fat plain Greek yogurt:  Pack single serving portions in a cooler. Enjoy as-is, topped with nuts and dried fruit, add honey for a sweet fruit dip or sprinkle in ranch seasoning for a veggie dip.
  2. Peanut Butter on whole wheat Goldfish® Bread: A fun twist on an oldie but goodie.
  3. Kashi Go Lean Caramel Peanut Roll:  With a whopping 12 grams of protein, this satisfying snack will fill you up for less than 200 calories
  4. Wholly Guacamole 100 Calorie Packs:  A pre-portioned pack of heart healthy, “great-for-you” guacamole. Pair with baby carrots for a very “starry” snack!
  5. Brothers-All-Natural Disney Freeze-Dried Pineapple Fruit Crisps: An easy-to-pack, portable serving of fruit
  6. Calbee Original Flavor Baked Snapea Crisps: A flavorful veggie snack that offers five grams of protein per serving
  7. Almond 100 Calorie packs: Perfect if you need a little help knowing when to stop!
  8. Eatsmart Naturals White Cheddar Cheese Multigrain Cheese Puffs:  Gluten-free, whole grain and made with the “right” fat
  9. Blue Bran Vita Muffin:  Pack one of these frozen muffins and it should be defrosted and ready to enjoy just about the time you are looking for your three o’clock coffee and a “something.” Only 100 calories and packed with 50% of your daily needs for vitamin A, vitamin C and iron and four grams of protein.
  10. Fruitabu Fruit Leathers: These all natural fruit snacks provide a half-serving of fruit in each bar!

The strange maple-syrup smell that has been drifting over New York City recently has left me with a craving for mapley foods. Yes, there’s the obvious way to eat maple syrup (pancakes! or, if you’re Buddy in Elf—on spaghetti), but I’m trying to have lighter meals and snacks these days, so instead, I’m going to make a recipe I found on the Food Network formaple glazed walnuts. I love all kinds of flavored nuts, and these are particularly good because they are sweet and salty, which is my favorite combination. And they’re healthy, too! (Unless you eat a pound at once, of course… and we all know that nuts can be hard to put down…)

The recipe is from the Food Network’s nutritionist/chef Ellie Krieger. (Check out her show and her tasty recipes online.) The only ingredients are walnuts, maple syrup, and salt—how simple is that? And it’s a nutritious snack. For starters, thewalnuts themselves are healthy. Also, there isn’t a ton of added sugar or fat. Adding maple syrup is a pretty natural way of sweetening food–some other nut recipes I’ve seen and tried have more fattening ingredients like butter, corn syrup, etc. (fine for a treat–I make buttery, spicy pecans when I entertain–but not so great for a daily snack). In fact, maple syrup even has some health benefits–did you know that it is a good source of manganese and zinc?


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