(ARA) - If you've ever hidden a snack, you're not alone. Grabbing a quick nibble on the sly is something a surprising number of people will admit to, when pressed. A recent study conducted by One Poll in the United Kingdom showed that 46 percent of people surveyed admitted to feeling embarrassed about the foods they choose for secretive snacking. But if your snacks are causing you to feel a pang of shame, it's time to rethink them. The habit of snacking, on its own, isn't a bad one - you just need to opt for foods that will fit into a healthy diet.
A bag of chips or a candy bar sneaked into the day, at your desk or in the car, is a guilty pleasure. But while everyone knows those aren't healthy foods, they are often the go-to items to keep hunger at bay - and that's where the guilt comes in.
The trend toward healthier lifestyles, filled with exercise and nutritious food, is quickly gaining ground in the United States. For those who are eager to make the change for the better might think that snacks would get thrown out the window, but in fact, there are ways to make snacks an integral part of your everyday diet, without sacrificing goals like getting healthier or losing weight.
The smart approach to snacking is a combination of healthy habits and healthy foods. Consider these tips to make snacking something that's a pleasure - without the guilt.
* Limit your portion sizes. The One Poll study also showed that 33 percent of women sneak snacks because they're embarrassed about both the type and amount of food they indulge in. By portioning out a mid-morning or afternoon snack, you'll limit your intake and still get the satisfaction of having a little bite to eat, without being ashamed of eating too much.
* Choose the right foods. High-calorie, highly-processed foods should not be the first thing you reach for. Instead, give yourself a supply of treats that are both satisfying and healthy. Pistachios, for instance, make a great choice because they're packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats and protein - and a serving of 49 in-shell pistachios has just 160 calories. All that nutritive goodness makes them an ideal snack for an active lifestyle - pistachios are even the official snack of the USA Water Polo men's and women's teams.
* Share your snack. Recruit your buddy co-worker, your kids or your spouse to share a snack with you. Not only will it give you a moment to reconnect and have a fun conversation, it'll encourage you to make choices that are healthy for both you and the person you're sharing with.
* Keep a supply of snacks. If you don't have anything healthy on hand, it's tempting to hit the vending machine or pick up some candy at a check-out counter. A bowl of nuts on your kitchen counter gives your whole family a place to stop for a nutritious snack, but keeping a supply of treats in your car or at your desk also keeps you satisfied without having to resort to those shame-inducing items.
As so many people have learned, radical lifestyle changes aren't easy to make. Making health a priority is easier when you make small changes that can have positive effects, like switching your snacks from hidden to healthy. For snack recipes and tips, visit www.AmericanPistachios.org.
Pistachios with Black and White Peppercorns by Chef Grant MacPherson
1 pound American pistachios, in-shell
1/4 ounce ground white peppercorns
1/4 ounce ground black peppercorns
4 tablespoons Canola oil
Sea salt to taste
Warm the canola oil in a roasting pan on the stove top, add the pistachios and toast. Add the ground white and black pepper, coat evenly and continue toasting; season with sea salt to taste. Remove from heat and serve warm in the vessel of your choice.