Now that we’re in the middle of triathlon season, I’m finding myself absolutely craving more calories in between meals, especially from “crunchy” foods, like cracker mixes and banana chips. Are these type of foods healthy for snacking?
Great question. While your body “crying for calories” is often a sign that you *should* be increasing overall food intake, you need to be careful with the type of things you may be consuming along with your “healthy” snack foods.
Take your banana chips, for example. Just two large handfuls of banana chips can guarantee that you’ve just eaten 2 entire bananas that have been dipped and drenched in 100+ calories of oil, and often powdered with fructose sugar. Of course, if you purchase your banana chips raw and unseasoned, or make them yourselves in a fruit drier, that is an options, albeit more expensive or logistically challenging.
And those packaged cracker mixes or trail mixes? Typically a similar story – lots of added vegetable oils to make them taste good and preservatives to make them last long on the shelf.
Ultimately, the problem is that most of the pre-packaged crunchy treats on the market are drenched in some type of substance that makes them “taste good” (typically an oil or salt derivative). So what is the healthy athlete to do? Here are my top 5 good substitutes for crunchy cravings:
1. Seasoned, Raw Almonds
(I personally prefer a few dashes of chili pepper and sea salt just shake everything together in a tupperware or ziplock back and consume as your own healthy snack mix.)
2. Jikama Strips
These large, round, crunchy vegetables can be found in the produce aisle. Also try mini-carrots, lightly salted and dipped into salsa, hummus or guacamole
Yes, believe it or not, gum, although chewy, often satisfies crunch cravings.
Top with a high quality sea salt, like fleur de sel
5. Crunchy gluten-free crackers.
There are many brands out there. Here’s the ingredient label of one: Organic Golden Flaxseed, Organic Hemp Meal, Organic Agave Syrup, Nutritional Yeast, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Organic Rosemary, Celtic Sea Salt. This particular brand is “Foods Alive Hemp Organic Flax Gluten-Free Crackers”. Just be careful, as there are 150 calories in 5 crackers, whereas you could crunch on jikama practically all day long…
Hopefully this helps. I just put the finishing touches on a book called “Holistic Nutrition for Ironman Triathletes”. It’s a comprehensive guide to fueling with the thousands of calories necessary for endurance sports, *without* destroying your body. You can find the book over at http://www.mindsettriathlon.com.