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I started to write about "what not to eat" this week and was thinking about snacks. This is a pretty easy target on the one hand, but on the other there's just so much on the shelves now that presents challenges that it's hard to know where to begin. It's not that cookies are bad, for example - it's that there are so many bad cookies on the market. If you're going to have a cookie or a cupcake make it a really fantastic one, not a Mrs. Fields that has been mass produced with mediocre ingredients, frozen, shipped, thawed and just maybe baked properly.
You don't want to be splurging all the time, but maybe you do want something to snack on. First and foremost, when it comes to treating yourself it's good to know whether you are a sweet or a salty/savory snacker. For the most part we all have a preference but there is some crossover with 10 to 20% of us liking the combination of sweet and salty/savory.
Here are some suggestions for low calorie treats that are full of flavor.
1. Fresh Berries. Fresh fruit of any kind is always a guilt free choice but berries are perfect for almost everyone. If you want to feel a little guilty then have a squirt of canned real whipped cream. It will only add 30 calories in about 1/4 cup and that's only 30 calories on top of delicious blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or raspberries.
For the ultimate in guilt free, having aged balsamic vinegar on top is amazing and doesn't add any calories.
2. Dark chocolate cocoa. There's a lot of good products out there on the market right now and we know that chocolate contains great antioxidants. Shop around to find the highest cacao and keep an eye on the amount of sugar added.
3. Dole Frozen Fruit Juice bars. All of 90 calories and made with (mostly) fruit and water with little added sugar. It's a popsicle so you can be a kid but still feel like you are having something really healthy.
4. Fudgesicle Low Fat Bar. Chocolate ice cream on a stick that's like being a kid again - yet only 60 calories. (Of course, for those of you like me who love them, the Creamsicle Low Fat Bar is only 70 calories.)
5. Mother's Caramel Flavored Rice Cakes. Only 45 calories each these are not your mom's rice cakes. They are sticky sweet and very filling. The caramel are great but for those who prefer savory snacks, try the white cheddar with a bit of peanut butter or tahini.
6. Stoneyfield Farms frozen yogurts. A 1/2 cup serving is between 100 and 140 calories and full of flavor. These are creamy, rich but low in calories, fat and sodium. Most of the calories does come from sugar but there's also 15% of the RDA for calcium.
1. Popcorn tops this list. The 100 calorie popcorn packs are perfect (but here's a great way to make your own for about 7 cents a serving). Great portion control. A LOT of popcorn. Savory flavor and ready right now. You don't even know that there's 4 grams fiber and less than 200 mg sodium.
2. Roasted pistachios. Pistachios in the shell are great and having to shell them will slow you down a bit. Even so, they're rich and satisfying with great quality fats as well as fiber.
3. Guiltless Gourmet chips and black bean dip. An ounce of chips with 1/4 cup of dip is (relatively) low in sodium but high in fiber. For a better treat, make fresh salsa.
1. Kettle Corn. Not the kind you buy at the carnival, however. The same companies that make the 100 calorie popcorn packs make delicious kettle corn varieties that are lower in salt but still full of sweet and salty flavor.
2. Melon and Prosciutto. A wedge of ripe cantaloupe with a thin slice of fine prosciutto ham is rich, decadent and not very high in calories. The wedge of melon will be around 50 calories and a slice of prosciutto ham about the same.
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
First posted: April 18, 2011