Yep, you read that right. Hanger is real, and you can bet that we Filipinos are practically programmed to avoid it.
You see, in our country, it’s normal to chow down five times a day. At least.
Apart from the usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we also like to have our morning and afternoon snacks. Here, coffee breaks go beyond a hastily-prepared cup of joe that you swig in ten minutes. Merienda involves a couple of pastries from the nearby panaderia at the very least, and when someone in the office has their birthday, well, that’s when the pancit, pizza, and cake are rolled out, even if it’s hours before dinnertime.
Constant snacking is certainly fun, but it’s not always healthy. The excessive consumption of salty potato chips or sugary cupcakes can not only make you feel bloated, but it can also lead to serious health problems like hypertension or high blood pressure if left unchecked down the line.
Thankfully, there are some pretty delicious yet far more nutritious alternatives that you can turn to the next time you’re feeling peckish:
1. Pistachio nuts.
These aren’t just fun to crack open and eat, they’re also high in good fats like mono and polyunsaturated ones. These, along with the fiber and plant protein found in pistachio nuts, can help keep you feeling full much longer.
As another bonus, the effort it takes to eat pistachio nuts helps you eat less, specifically by about 40% more. How? Well, it takes a while for the stomach to send signals to the brain that it’s already full. Having to tap or pry open the nut’s shells makes up for that delay, thus preventing you from overeating. Pretty nifty, huh?
2. Raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, and other nuts.
Okay, so nuts are high in calories, but as with the previous examples, these are derived from good fats and are accompanied by nutrients like magnesium and iron. Pumpkin seeds, for instance, happen to be chock-full of nutrients like zinc, which greatly aids digestion.
But why you should you opt for raw nuts over their processed counterparts? This is because heating them up destroys much of their nutritious enzymes, thus resulting in a lot of empty calories.
3. Canned pulses.
What on Earth are pulses? Worry not, it’s just a fancy term for the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. Chickpeas, lentils, and black beans are all good examples of pulses. (There we go, we’ve just managed to use our shiny new word in a sentence.)
Not a fan of eating these straight out of the can or jar? Stir-frying them with some olives, capers, and black pepper and then serving the lot over some brown rice works just fine too.
If you really want to cut the rice in your diet, making a dupe using cauliflower would be a great idea.
Making cauliflower rice is pretty straightforward. You take a fresh head of this white cruciferous vegetable and run it through either a box grater or a food processor, depending on how fine you want your “grains” to be.
After that, you can prepare the “rice” however you prefer: boiling, sauteeing, or even as the stuffing in burritos for a guilt-free snack.
5. Greek yogurt with fruit.
Yogurt has got to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world, if only because it tastes good, is readily available, and is packed with protein and fiber to keep you energized throughout the day.
Lots of commercially-made yogurt are spiked with sugar to make it more palatable, but genuine Greek yogurt generally isn’t. So, if you’re in a rush, grabbing a cup with your favorite fruits is a great option for healthy snacking.
6. Wholegrain carbs.
Sometimes, you need something to munch on for added energy right before you proceed to your work-out.
A slice of wholegrain toast or a whole-wheat bagel happens to be what sports dietitians themselves reach for before killing it at the gym. Wholegrain bread or crackers are a cinch to eat and digest, and when topped with a little honey or some pure maple syrup, provide fuel and stamina for the body.
7. Dried seaweed.
Nori sheets aren’t just for sushi rolls; they’re pretty awesome on their own too.
Seaweeds are loaded with vitamin B-12 and iodine, which keeps your brain and nervous system in tip-top shape. Its umami flavor and crumbly texture might be an acquired taste, but it is a strategic trade for the usual bag of potato chips since it has less sodium and more fiber.
We all need to be a bit more mindful about what we put into our bodies, especially since you can’t exactly outrun your fork, metaphorically speaking.
Still, that doesn’t mean we have to deprive ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in something sugary or salty every once in a while….so long as we make healthier choices every other time.