(BPT) - America is a nation of snackers, consuming an ever-increasing array of larger-sized food. You've probably heard of the trend 'supersizing.' The challenge is that as our snacks have increased in size, so too have the number of empty calories we consume. Instead of supersizing our snacks, dietician Ashley Koff says now is the time to superfood our snacks instead. What does that mean? Supersizing is simply increasing the amount of food we are eating, while superfooding is packing those snacks with as many nutrients and health benefits as possible.
'Snacking - what I call nutrition 'pit stops' - is a great way to keep your energy up and your appetite at bay,' says Koff. 'Instead of reaching for a bag of highly processed chips or cookies, grab superfoods that fill you up with the right balance of quality nutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) as well as delivering the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are critical for good health.'
What exactly are superfoods? They are a group of foods that are rich in nutrients the body needs to function optimally. And while superfoods have powerful nutritional benefits, as with all foods, Koff says to be mindful of portion size, even when choosing better-for-you snacks. She recommends including these amazing ingredients in smoothies, salads, trail mixes or on-the-go bars to pack not only fun into your summer snacking, but a lot of key nutrients as well.
Chia seeds pack 10 grams of fiber in every ounce (just under three tablespoons) along with an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Plus, they can absorb up to 10 times their weight in water, which keeps you feeling fuller longer.
Hemp: not just for hippies
Hemp is definitely having its moment and for good reason. These powerfully healthy seeds are packed with omega-3 and 6 fatty acids (including the elusive but potent GLA, a fatty acid that supports healthy hair, skin and nails as well as hormones).
Coconuts are high in fiber, rich in vitamins and loaded with minerals and amino acids. They have tons of calcium, potassium and magnesium. Whether you eat coconut meat, shredded coconut, coconut flour or coconut oil, you'll be getting lots of healthy fats.
Acai for me
Acai palm trees in South America produce a berry that is widely touted for its many health benefits. Loaded with antioxidants, fiber and healthy fats, the berry is also known for containing key vitamins like vitamin A, iron, and calcium.
Take a baobab
Impress your friends by sharing knowledge of an up and coming superfood: Baobab. The fruit is dried and made into a fruit-flavored powder and features many health benefits. It is rich in vitamin C, calcium, potassium, fiber and antioxidants, and many consider it to be one of the most supercharged of the superfoods.
We've always hoped there was a reason to eat more chocolate. If you are eating true cacao, then that wish has come true. Rich in antioxidants, cacao nibs are the 'seeds' of the cacao fruit. They deliver a stimulant and emotional boost as well as being a rich source of magnesium.
Getting the most out of superfoods
So how do you enhance your summer snacking with these tasty, nutrient-packed superfoods? Koff suggests the following easy-to-make recipes and one superfood snack bar to make this summer a healthy and delicious one.
Smoothies 2.0: Superfoods take smoothies to new heights of healthiness and are a great way to make a nutrient-dense meal or snack on the run. For a tropical escape, try combining hemp, mango or pineapple and coconut water.
A super banana: This summer take the frozen banana on a stick to a new level by dipping bananas into melted dark chocolate and then rolling them in coconut shavings and Nature's Path Qi'a Superfood, a mix of chia, buckwheat and hemp. Wrap and freeze.
Trail mixing: Make your own trail mix this summer and superfood it by adding nuts, dried fruit like coconut and blueberries and cacao nibs for great fuel and taste.
A bar raised
If you're heading to the beach for the day, going hiking or even running to the office, summer is the perfect time to reach for a snack bar that is full of superfoods and as nutritious as it is delicious, such as Nature's Path Qi'a Superfood Snack Bars. These incredibly great-tasting bars are available in five flavors, including Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond and Blueberry Cashew Pumpkin Seed. They are packed with chia, coconut and hemp to fill you up and keep you going. The bars are also certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, certified gluten-free and vegan. They provide lasting energy, protein and lower sugar than most energy bars.
Koff says while snacking can be a healthy and wonderful way to stave off hunger and garner more energy, just make sure you are reaching for foods that are healthy and nutritious. By reaching for superfoods snacks, you can pack in vital nutrients, not the pounds.