Snack Attack

Chocolate chip cookies. Buttery popcorn. Chips and dip. Snacking is an American pastime. Indeed, Time.com has called us “a nation of committed Twinkie eaters,” while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced that the obesity rate is at an all-time high. Sixty-one percent of American adults are overweight or obese, a condition linked to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and some cancers, which kill 300,000 a year.

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The author made enormous personal sacrifices to research this article. She says you’d never know that Boston Cookies are dairy-free. © Brian C. Howard

Obviously, unhealthy snacking and obesity go hand in hand, but what about the enjoyment of an occasional brownie break? Thankfully, for junk-food junkies, there are lots of healthy options besides celery and carrot sticks.

Of course, fruits and veggies are the perfect healthy snack. But when that carbohydrate craving hits and an apple just won’t do, at least you can eat organic, vegan, low-fat, whole grain or refined sugar-free food that won’t lead you to “junk food guilt” later. Some non-traditional choices like soups, yogurts and pumpkin seeds can also replace less healthy food on the go and provide protein and fill you up. It’s time to eat healthy. You’ll feel better the morning after.

Sweet Ideas

Starting with dessert (because it’s more fun), there’s a variety of choices available for those wishing to replace their mom’s egg and dairy-laden cookies with vegan or non-wheat treats. There are so many new choices in the aisles of health-food stores and even traditional supermarkets that it can be daunting. So healthy you can even substitute them for your morning muffin or toast, EssenSmart’s moist and chewy (some environmentalists will question the individual wrapping) cookies are high fiber, high protein (from soy), lactose- and cholesterol-free. I tried Almond Delight, Orange and Raisin, and Ginger and Spice, and I had no problem snacking my way through all three boxes ($3.49 each).

Boston Cookies specializes in gourmet vegan cookies and brownies. Since 1977, the company has known that flavors like Peanut Butter, Mocha Chocolate Chip, Banana Walnut, Lemon Poppy and old favorites Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin will be sure to satisfy that cookie craving ($1.40 each). These extra-large cookies contain no cholesterol thanks to a lack of dairy or egg ingredients (not that you can tell!). The dense Chocolate Fudge, Mocha Fudge and Peanut Fudge brownies seem like sinful indulgences, but they are sweetened with fruit juice.

For those who find change difficult, Newman’s Own Organics makes traditional American cookies with an organic twist. Chocolate Alphabet and Cinnamon Graham Alphabet delights are simple and not too sweet. For a full-on cookie experience, Newman’s crunchy chocolate chip cookie competes with any store brand. Newman-O’s are cr?me-filled chocolate cookies, and Fig Newmans are less-sweet versions of the old favorite. All royalties from Newman’s products are donated to charities, and the cookies are made with non-hydrogenated palm oil (all $3.29 to $3.59).

The Scotland-based Walkers, which dates to 1898, makes delicious organic shortbread fingers and Wheat ‘n’ Oat Biscuits. The company also produces a variety of organic cookies for Duchy Originals. Established by Prince Charles, Duchy’s profits go to charity.

Yogurt, Soup and Chips Ahoy!

For those who prefer salty over sweet, some unique chips with an Asian twist are now available. Eden Foods makes Brown Rice Chips, Vegetable Chips and Hot and Spicy Wasabi Chips, all made from brown rice for people who are sensitive to wheat products. These all-natural, light and tasty chips are made without hydrogenated oil ($2.75 per 2.1-ounce package). Another non-wheat snack is Newman’s Own Tortilla Chips, made from organic corn, sunflower oil, salt and not much else. Full of corn flavor, they are delicious with salsa or on their own. Walnut Acres is introducing Midnight Sun, Sweet Southwestern Peach and Fiesta Cilantro salsas that are rich in tomato flavor and certified organic ($3.69 per jar). Newman’s Own also answers the desire for traditional American salty foods with a variety of pretzels, my favorite of which is the spicy Salt and Pepper variety ($1.89 a bag). Newman’s light and tasty Organic Microwave Popcorn ($2.99 a box) is also delicious.

A serving of yogurt contains a wallop of protein, almost half of the daily adult requirement of calcium and a host of beneficial live bacteria, which most health care professionals say helps maintain intestinal health. Two companies lead the way in organic yogurts, both of which contain four to six different yogurt cultures and come in portable packaging. Brown Cow Farm has just released a truly delicious drinkable yogurt in flavors like Orange Cr?me, Tahitian Vanilla, Apricot Mango and Strawberry Banana ($1.79 each). Neither Brown Cow Farm nor Stonyfield Farm, which offers a yogurt drink in yummy Raspberry, Strawberry, Peach and Tropical Fruit, use any dairy ingredients containing Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Stonyfield Farm, which sells its products in mainstream and natural food stores, also makes the ultimate in portable nourishment, yogurt in a tube. It is easy to throw into a gym bag or eat while driving without making a mess (box of eight tubes is $2.70).

Fantastic Foods makes a huge variety of soups, like Creamy Garlic Mushroom, Creamy Broccoli Cheddar, Country Lentil, and Black Bean, as well as a variety of chilis. Just add hot water and they’re ready to eat in five minutes. At 99 cents apiece, they are all-natural, affordable, delicious, low fat and fast, but not exclusively organic. Walnut Acres has also just added organic Mediterranean Lentil and Cuban Black Bean soups to its extensive lineup ($2.99 a glass bottle).

When you are running late, try pumpkin seeds for a quick, different snack. Cholesterol-free and high in protein, fiber and antioxidants—plus rumored to be an aphrodisiac—pumpkin seeds have been cultivated in the Americas for more than 9,000 years. The Aztecs even prepared them with chocolate and cayenne pepper. The Fertile Hand makes organic pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) in amazing Cinnamon Toasted, Chocolate Smothered, Garlic Roasted and the fiery Extra Hot Spicy ($4.99 per package). For that just-plain pumpkin seed flavor, try Austria’s Finest Naturally/Helco Ltd.

With all these healthy options for snacking, there aren’t any more excuses to eat processed, high calorie and fat snacks. Now you can have your (organic) snacks and eat them too.