What to Snack on This Winter (while Staying Healthy)
Ever wonder why it’s so easy to pack on the pounds in the wintertime? There are actually a few good reasons. First, the cold weather makes warm, hearty comfort foods so appealing. There’s no way you could even think about eating that much mac ’n’ cheese in the middle of a hot July day.
Second, we naturally get less exercise as the days run shorter—that colder weather becomes less inviting for walks or jogs around the neighborhood.
Another biggie? Seasonal eating takes a nosedive in the wintertime, since fresh fruits and veggies are scarce. Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a warm climate, there are probably fewer (or no) farmers markets open until spring, making it harder to eat fresh, local produce.
While it can be pretty tempting to dig into your favorite carb-laden foods this time of year, it’s important to avoid things that can spike your blood sugar. You might love that productive hour as a burst of energy kicks in, but it’s not worth the inevitable afternoon slump that will leave you feeling even more sluggish and sleepy than before.
Sneaky Snacks Disguised as Healthy
You probably know that the Snickers bar calling your name from the vending machine is a bad idea, but there are plenty of other snacks that you may have been tricked into believing were healthy. Try to avoid these sneaky—and in many cases non-Paleo—snacks that can spike insulin and pack more sugar than you’d expect.
- Whole wheat bagel. Bagels are right near the top of the glycemic index. Yes, whole wheat bagels have more fiber and protein than a normal bagel, but even putting aside the fact that bread is not Paleo, the carb count in a whole wheat bagel is still high. If you’re eating a regular-sized (not mini) bagel, chances are you’re consuming more carbs than a donut. All those carbs turn into glucose in your body and will make your blood sugar levels spike.
- Avocado toast. The avocado is all good here. The toast, not so much. Even if the toasted bread is whole wheat, like the bagel above, they can contain just as many carbs and calories. Plus, when you order this at a restaurant, you’re likely getting a lot more butter or oil than you would have used at home. Try smearing avocado on a slice of sweet potato instead.
- Flavored yogurt. All dairy-based yogurt is a no-go on The Paleo Diet®. But some brands of flavored yogurt contain even more sugar than ice cream. If you’re going to have yogurt, stick with the low-sugar brands made from nuts or coconut instead of milk.
- Cereal. Of course, our Paleo ancestors did not consume any processed grains. While you might be tempted to snack on them because of their convenience, most cereals (especially those targeted at kids) are filled with sugar. The “healthy” whole grain options are still a low-nutrient density grain-based food and just as problematic. Take a look at the label on Multigrain Cheerios. You’ll find a whole lot of corn and sugar in here. It’s best to completely avoid all cereals.
- Store-bought energy bars. Making a batch of your own energy snacks is one thing, but the kind you find in the middle of the grocery store are filled with preservatives, not to mention added doses of unnecessary sugar.
- Trail mix. While a handful of nuts makes for a great snack, the dried fruit in most trail mixes sends it into unhealthy territory. Yes, even raisins and dried figs are higher in sugar (and calories) than you’d expect. Pack up a mix of nuts and fresh berries for your hike instead.
Healthy Winter Snacks That Won’t Spike Your Blood Sugar
You don’t have to give your winter snacking lifestyle a full makeover—just a few simple swaps will do the trick for keeping your health goals in check.
Easy Winter Snacks You Can Prep Ahead
Got a few spare minutes in the evening? Make these snacks for your commute, your hike, or whatever you have planned for the next day.
- Hard-boiled eggs. It’s always a great idea to snack on protein, which will keep you feeling full longer than carbs. The humble hard-boiled egg has only one gram of carbohydrate, but they are packed with nutrients. Hard boil a dozen at a time to keep on hand in the fridge, or turn them into deviled eggs if you’re feeling fancy.
- Almond butter on celery. Remember ants on a log? Well, take out the sugary raisin “ants,” swap peanut butter for almond butter, and you’ve got a crunchy, creamy, satisfying snack that will take you no more than 30 seconds to make. Just be careful of the almond butters packed with sugar. Better yet, make your own.
- Salt-free nut mix. There’s really no reason to buy trail mix when you can just shake up your own homemade blend of your favorite nuts. Skip the dried fruit (or add just a few craisins if you must).
- Veggie smoothie. It may not sound as appetizing as a fruit smoothie but trust me—it can be! Start with this vibrant ginger spinach smoothie sweetened with banana and apple. It’s like a tasty salad in a glass.
- Homemade dips. It’s not hard to whip up a healthy dip to accompany some plain raw veggies. Mash up an herby guacamole or, if you have a blender, try your hand at a bean-free Paleo hummus that uses pine nuts and roasted beets instead of chickpeas.
Zero Prep Necessary
No time for prepping your healthy winter snacks? Just grab these items on your next grocery run so you aren’t tempted to dig into those office bagels.
- Fresh berries. Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are all great choices.
- Grapefruit. Let’s face it, you can never go wrong grabbing winter-seasonal fruit, like citrus.
- Plain coconut yogurt. You can make your own coconut yogurt at home and top with fresh berries for a quick and tasty treat.
- Canned fish. Tuna, salmon, or sardines are all good options, just look for no salt added.
- Jerky. The best jerky is homemade, without all the additives and salt.
It can be hard to stay healthy in the wintertime, and that birthday cake in the break room might be calling your name extra loud this time of year. Just stay armed with your favorite satiating, healthy winter snacks, and you’ll find that staying on track becomes second nature.
Lauren Fellows is a experienced editor and content manager with nutrition and lifestyle brands. She has worked for multiple Paleo brands assigning and editing content.More About The Author