Growing up, some of the best days were when my mom would forget to pack my lunch (sorry ma!) On these very special occasions, I would get to indulge in a glorious lunchtime treat. It was deliciously savory, yet slightly sweet, with a hint of smoke, and the perfect amount of salt – all culminating in a flakey, buttery, oh-so-satisfying crunch. It was the Lunchable: the most coveted cuisine in all the cafeteria.
Today, there are a lot more pre-packed meal and snack options – some healthy, and some, not so much.
Here is our guide to picking a healthy snack pack, and a few of our favorite brands.
LOOK FOR: PROTEIN & FAT
If you read our article 7 Hacks for a Healthier Breakfast, you know that these two nutrients are critical for brain function. Protein helps make neurotransmitters like dopamine and noradrenaline, which help us feel happy and energized. Fat, on the other hand, helps us absorb vitamins, keeps our blood sugar stable – which keeps you fuller, longer – and is needed for proper hormonal function. Always make sure your snack pack has enough fat and protein to balance out its sugar content. These two nutrients will help keep you full and focused.
WATCH OUT FOR: SUGAR & ADDITIVES
Sugar has become the new saturated fat, being blamed for most of our nutritional woes. While you don’t want to go on the Buddy the Elf Diet, and make sugar one of your main food groups, sugar is just a nutrient. It’s not the Devil. Our bodies can metabolize some sugar, it just needs to be eaten in moderation, and balanced with other nutrients like fat and protein. Ideally, your snack pack shouldn’t have more than 16g of sugar per serving. If it has more sugar, make sure it has more fat and protein too.
As for additives, any pre-packaged food is probably going to have some ingredients you don’t find in nature. This is okay. Our rule of thumb is to try and buy products with as few ingredients as possible. Preferably those you recognize and can pronounce.
We do recommend you steer clear of any pack that contains:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Potassium Bromate
- Blue #1
- Blue #2
- Red #40
- Yellow #6
Several of these additives have been shown to negatively impact cognitive function, and many have been banned in other countries.
OUR FAVORITE PACKS
There are literally thousands of healthy options out there – it all depends on where you live and where you shop. Here are just a few of our favorite snacks that can be found at most grocery stores nationwide.
- Horizon Organic string cheese
- Babybel mini cheeses
- Beanitos mini packs
- Snackimals cookies
- KRAVE turkey jerky
- HALF TIME lunch boxes
- Stoneyfield Organic Oh My Yog!
- Blue Diamond 100 calorie snack pack
- Mama Chia Chia Squeeze
Pre-made packs that pair fruit or veggies with a fat, like apples and peanut butter, or veggie sticks with hummus, are always a great option that can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores (and even some gas stations!) Extra bonus points for organic 😉
Know anyone who could use some lunchtime inspo? Share this with them!
What are your favorite snacks and packs? We’d love to hear in the comments!
Posted on September 24, 2015