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, the weather can get colder and it 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 lucky enough to live in a warm climate, there are probably fewer (or no) farmer’s markets open until the spring, making it hard to eat fresh, local produce.
While it’s pretty tempting to dig into your favorite carb-laden food this time of year, it’s important to avoid foods that 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.
The 8 Snacks You Might Think are Healthy (But Aren’t!)
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 might 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. 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 eating more carbs than a donut. All those carbs turn into glucose in your body and will make your blood sugar levels spike. Bagels are right near the top of the glycemic index.
- Avocado toast. The avocado is all good here. The toast, not so much. Even if the toasted bread is whole wheat, just like the bagel above, chances are that there are just as many carbs and calories. Plus, when you order this at a restaurant, chances are there’s 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 vanilla or fruity yogurt is even worse. Some brands even contain 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, even 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 the 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.
- Bananas. The occasional banana is okay, especially if you’re a runner and need your strength right now. But as an everyday snack, it might not be the best choice. That’s because bananas are one of the sugariest fruits that exist. In fact, the humble banana is about 25 percent sugar. You’re better off with low-carb options like berries.
- Fruit smoothies. Depending on what’s in it, the fruit smoothie can be quite the sugar bomb. Consider that many smoothies already have a banana and flavored yogurt mixed in, and you’ll find yourself drinking down more calories than you’d expect. Try adding a tablespoon of healthy nut butter, chia seeds, vegetables such as spinach and/or other natural protein add-ins to your smoothie instead of a banana to keep it on the healthier side.
Healthy Winter Snacks (That You’ll Actually Look Forward to Noshing on)
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 the Night Before
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 fill up on protein, which will keep you feeling full longer than carbs. The humble hard-boiled egg has only one gram of carbs each, but they are packed with nutrients. Hard boil a dozen at a time to keep on hand in the fridge, and turn them into avocado-filled 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 literally take you 30 seconds to make. Just be careful of the almond butters packed with sugar. Some stores let you grind your own.
- Homemade 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). Feeling adventurous? Try this seaweed trail mix made with wakame, walnuts, and spices.
- Veggie smoothie. It doesn’t sound as appetizing as a fruit smoothie but trust me — it can be! Start with this kale cucumber smoothie filled with hearty veggies like yellow bell peppers and celery, then sweetened with a green apple, ginger, and cilantro. It’s like a tasty salad in a glass.
- Homemade dips. It’s not hard to whip up a healthy dip to accompany a sad baggie of raw veggies, like carrots. Mash up a creamy veggie-laden guacamole with red bell peppers or tomatoes, or if you have a blender, try your hand at a bean-free Paleo hummus by using raw soaked cashews 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’re never going too wrong grabbing fresh seasonal fruit)
- Plain coconut yogurt (You can even add your own berries on top.)
- Can of tuna or sardines
- Low-sodium beef jerky (Even better: get turkey jerky.)
I know it’s 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, protein-filled healthy winter snacks, and you’ll find that staying on track becomes second nature.