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9 Healthy “Couch Time” Snacks

Fall is upon us, which means that the new TV season has started, baseball is heading into the postseason, and football is starting up. With the weather changing, the couch will soon look inviting enough to curl up with a blanket. Now, keep in mind we’re not encouraging any couch potato behavior. We prefer that you get to boot camp and add in extra cardio sessions on the weekend. But we’re all human, and it’s almost impossible to resist football or your favorite shows. Just because you’re taking a couple of down time doesn’t mean you have to stuff yourself with chips, cookies, or other processed food diet-killers. Here are 10 tasty and healthy snacks that are great for TV downtime.

Popcorn. Air popped, of course. Three cups of popcorn have just 93 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. Air-popped popcorn doesn’t have much nutritive value outside of the energy you may get from the calories and some dietary fiber, but it can satisfy your munchies without getting you too far off the diet path.  If you’re going for microwave convenience, make sure you read the label carefully. Even some of the “healthy” brands contain a fair amount of fat and salt. Try making your own! Just put 1/4 cup of popcorn into a brown lunch bag, fold the top over tightly, and microwave at your usual popcorn setting. Try to avoid salt and butter. Instead, enjoy your favorite herbs or a squeeze of lemon juice with some garlic powder or cayenne pepper.

Bean dip. Beans are a great source of protein and fiber, and they don’t have tons of calories. One cup of canned pintos only has 206 calories; it also has 12 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber. Even better? Beans are incredibly filling. Even prepackaged bean dips are relatively decent. You can make your own dips, hot or cold, by food-processing canned black or pinto beans (yum to the ones canned with jalapeños!) and adding water to create your desired consistency. You could add some chopped bell or jalapeño peppers, green onions, or canned corn to add a crunchy texture, or some chopped tomatoes for a little extra flavor and vitamins. Instead of fatty fried tortilla chips, use baked chips or, better yet some crunchy raw veggies like carrots, celery, sliced bell peppers, broccoli, or cauliflower.

Salsa. Great ingredients! The nice thing about salsa is that it is so low in calories and so high in fiber, you can basically eat it by the cupful and not gain weight. If you buy it at the store though, watch out for the salt content—that’s the secret ingredient in most canned and jarred salsas. You’re much better off making your own pico de gallo: Just dice tomatoes and onions and mix with as much minced jalapeño and/or garlic as you can stand. Add fresh cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste and toss the veggies in the juice of two limes. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving. You can eat it with baked chips or the crunchy veggies that also go great with the bean dip. The salsa and the bean dip also complement each other well, for the double dippers among us.

Crispbread crackers. These crunchy snacks (including Wasa® and Rykrisp® brands) have around 30 calories a cracker (depending on the brand, flavor, and style) and a couple of grams of fiber in each one. For the Top Chef in you, they make great bases for some healthy ingredients. Try a little bit of low fat cottage cheese with a dash of hot sauce; a slice of turkey breast and roasted red pepper; a “schmear” of hummus and a couple of pitted olives; or a slice of tomato and a fresh basil leaf with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Even the pico de gallo recipe above with some shredded nonfat cheddar will make a tasty cracker-topping treat. Be creative!

Pistachios. Pistachios are a great heart-healthy snack full of antioxidants, fiber, and unsaturated fats. A 1/2-cup serving (with the shells, assuming you don’t eat them) only has 170 calories, with 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber; however, that serving also has 14 grams of fat, so don’t go nuts and take down the whole bag. Walnuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, and other nuts all have their nutritional upsides, too. We like pistachios because it takes time to open the shells, thus forcing you to slow your snacking down and appreciate your food. Keep an eye on the sodium content when you buy the nuts. Either buy unsalted or low-salt versions. Chili-lime is a fun flavor!

Edamame. The Japanese have one of the healthiest diets in the world, and soybeans are a great staple of that diet. Edamame—steamed or boiled soybean pods—contain all the essential amino acids, many essential fatty acids, and soy isoflavones. And a half-cup of beans only has 100 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 9 grams of carbs, with 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Truly one of nature’s perfect foods. And like pistachios, you can serve them in their shells, which slows down your face-stuffing process, giving you time to feel full before you’ve overeaten. Whole Foods carries frozen edamame. Just grab a bag, dump it in a pot, boil for a bit and you are on your way to snacking heaven!

Mini-pizzas. Forget the frozen food section. All you need is a toaster oven. Just take half of a whole wheat English muffin (67 calories; 2 grams of fiber), add a little low-sodium tomato-based spaghetti or pizza sauce and a sprinkle of shredded low-fat or nonfat mozzarella cheese, and voilà—tasty and healthy pizza! As with the crispbread crackers, your imagination’s the only limit for toppings. Fresh herbs like basil and oregano are delicious. Peppers, mushrooms, and low-sodium anchovies are popular and fairly healthy. Just stay away from processed meats like pepperoni.

Pita chips and hummus. While you can purchase premade pita chips, you can easily make your own with very little fuss and muss (and usually with much less fat and salt). A large whole wheat pita has 170 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and less than 2 grams of fat. To make chips, cut around the edge of the pita with a small paring knife, so you have two discs. Then with a knife or pizza cutter, cut the discs into eighths or smaller chip-size pieces. Arrange the pieces on an aluminum-foil-covered cookie sheet, lightly spray with some olive oil cooking spray, and sprinkle with a little salt, low-fat Parmesan cheese, or your favorite dried herbs. Cook in oven or toaster oven until lightly browned and crispy, then serve with your favorite hummus or dip recipe.

Deviled eggs.  If you take the yolks out of the equation, egg whites prove to be small, healthy, high-protein delivery systems suitable for all kinds of nutritious creamy fillings. Cut a bunch of hard-boiled eggs in half, lengthwise, and scoop out and discard the yolks. Try mixing some nonfat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or nonfat cream cheese with your favorite flavorings and spices, then blending or food-processing until creamy. Spoon or pipe the mixture into the egg whites where the yolks used to be, and you’ll have a high-protein snack without all the fat and cholesterol. You can also use the empty egg whites as scoops for your favorite healthy dip or salsa.

Of course, you can enjoy even more snack food if you can work some exercise into your TV watching.  Try some stretching or PT exercises during commercials. Or if you love your DVR, use it to your advantage and do a cooldown stretch to your favorite show as a reward AFTER a tough boot camp.

Contributors: Stephanie S. Saunders, Beachbody.

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