BY CHRIS ROSENBLOOM, PhD, RD, CSSD
Most us will be glued to the television July 27-August 12 to watch the Olympic Games, especially when the swimming events are televised. TV watching often means snacking on empty calorie foods but it doesn’t have to be so. Don’t derail your training or let your parents sneak on the pounds while enjoying the Olympic coverage. Try these top healthy TV-friendly snacks to help you keep up your energy to cheer on the U.S. athletes.
1. Almonds. Always a great snack and it just got better. New research by scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture found that almonds contain 20% less calories than listed on the food label. Why? Because when almonds are digested and absorbed we don’t extract all of the calories in the nuts. A 1-ounce portion (about 23 almonds) has 129 calories versus the 160 calories listed on a food label. Keep a bowl of almonds handy for a tasty, healthy snack.
2. Popcorn. Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that half of the grains that we eat come from whole grains, so a bowl of popcorn will help you to meet the recommended guidelines. Try popping corn on the stove top or for convenience look for “light” microwave popcorn. Skip the butter drenched movie theatre-style popcorn or kettle corn to save calories. Top your popcorn with grated Parmesan cheese to add a calcium boost to your snack.
3. Summer veggies and dip. This is a great time to harvest your garden veggies (if you don’t have a garden, check out a local Farmer’s Market). Yellow and zucchini squash, cucumbers, banana peppers, green peppers, cherry tomatoes and green beans are all summer staples of most gardens and make for great TV snacking, and it is OK to serve with dip. The fat in dip actually helps in the absorption of many of the healthy nutrients in raw veggies… just don’t double dip!
4. Strawberries. Give a nod to the British Olympic hosts by eating the favorite snack served during the tennis championships of the All England Club (also known as Wimbledon). Over 112,000 pounds of strawberries were served during the 2-week tournament. For a healthier version, wash whole berries and dip into reduced fat-frozen whipped topping or vanilla yogurt and enjoy. Strawberries are rich in fiber, potassium and antioxidant nutrients. And did you know that strawberries have more vitamin C than an orange?
5. Bean dip and whole grain crackers. Break out of the sour cream-based dips and try healthy bean dips. There are several good black bean dips on the market or try your own with recipes from the United States Dry Bean Council (http://www.usdrybeans.com/category/recipes/appetizers/) or try Mango Tango Black Bean Salsa (http://www.mealtime.org/recipe_details.aspx?id=1064). Beans are higher in protein than other veggies so make for a satisfying snack.
Healthy snacking is a great way to boost nutrients so enjoy the Olympic Games and get some exercise by standing, jumping and cheering for the U.S. Team!
Chris Rosenbloom is the sports dietitian for Georgia State University Athletic Department and is the editor of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Sports Nutrition Manual, 5th edition, 2012.