Sometimes after a hard day of work or school, all you need is your couch, some PJs, and a night filled with To All the Boys I've Loved Before or Orange is the New Black. That's especially true during the colder winter months when the sun goes down before 6:00 pm! But before you reach for that bowl of buttery popcorn or a sleeve of Oreos, take a moment to consider your health.
What if your night of binge-watching and de-stressing could also help you maintain a balanced diet? Instead of munching on potato chips and Sour Patch Kids, try some of these healthy alternatives.
1. Dark Chocolate
Hu's chocolate bars feature organic house-ground cacao that is free from gluten, refined sugar, cane sugar, sugar alcohols, dairy, emulsifiers, and soy lecithin. That means that all that's included are healthy fats and a surprisingly low sugar content for something that's usually considered a "sweet." While we can easily get behind all of that, you honestly had us at "chocolate."
2. Mixed Nuts
Peanuts, cashews, and almonds are all nuts that are high in protein and healthy unsaturated fats. A few handfuls of these could help satisfy a craving for salty foods, but if you’re watching your sodium intake, just look for packages that are labeled unsalted instead.
Grapes, especially red ones, are high in brain-boosting, cancer-fighting antioxidants—and they’re tasty, too! If you’re craving something sweet, try frozen grapes instead of ice cream. Unlike strawberries, grapes don’t become rock solid when they’re frozen. Instead, they become firm but still easy to bite into, with a creamy consistency, kind of like a bite-sized grape popsicle.
4. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is an easy way to turn a bland snack into a tasty, filling one. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter over some celery, apples, or bananas for a snack that is high in nutrition and low in processed carbohydrates. Celery is a great option, since it is 95% water, low in carbs, and high in vitamin K, which can increase your bone strength.
5. Pumpkin Seeds
Just one serving of pumpkin seeds offers about seven grams of protein. You can add pumpkin seeds to salads, oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese for an extra dose of protein, or you can salt and roast them for a crunchy, low-carb snack option.
Whether it’s beef, buffalo, pork, turkey, venison, or even salmon, jerky is a good snack option for more than just road trips. With a 10:1 protein to fat ratio, chewing on some jerky while hanging out on the couch is definitely better than ordering a fattening pizza. Some brands even offer flavors, such as pineapple, orange, or chipotle for an extra kick.
Instead of spinach dip or melted cheese, one of the healthier dipping options is hummus. This is a Middle Eastern dish that is made with chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and sesame seed paste (also known as tahini). Hummus is high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
8. Butterless Popcorn
If you simply can’t stay away from popcorn, try to at least avoid the butter. Instead of buying pre-packaged varieties that are saturated with salt and butter, try popping your own popcorn or buying plain popcorn and sprinkling some parmesan cheese on top.