Mar 17, 2008

Stat-Balance the Human: Snacking Well-Fed

Before I get into today's post, there is one thing that I want to make competely clear. I am not a nutritionist. I haven't been trained in the metabolic process or the roles of the various vitamins and minerals in your body's vital systems. What I have done is read, experience, live and learn for the past *cough* many years about what is recommended, what was recommended, why things changed, how judgements were made, and who says what about nutrition. Let's face it - there have been a lot of voices in the choir about all things dietary over the last decade or two, and I've found that it's toughest to choose who to believe and who to ignore. Thus, I've kind of mixed and matched and formed my own opinions on the larger 'plans for eating right'.

So these are my thoughts and my suggestions based on experience, common sense, and research. In that order. My hope in presenting them is that you'll read, consider, and then maybe go do your own research into what makes sense to you. See if you can agree with me.

The Well-Fed Concept:

'Eating well' is the name of the game - not just eating, not just 'too much' or 'too little', but truly eating what your body needs and can use and avoiding the things that it is not designed to handle well. That's what I call 'eating well', and it should be a lot easier than it is!

... but really, it's so difficult. In the interests of economics, portability, and an eat-on-the-run modern mentality, the food that is easiest and cheapest to obtain often falls completely outside the realm of what is desirable to your body. Oh, sure. It's all 'eating', and it can make your stomach and your taste buds happy (mmm... pizza ... :D), but what is it putting into your system that you don't want? That you can't process? That affects your mood or your blood chemistry?

By now, I think everyone has seen or read some sort of documentation on the horrors of a fast-food diet and just what goes into fast food. I'm not going to beat that dead horse. I'm not going to tell you to boycott Burger King or avoid McDonalds like the plague. I'm not even going to tell you that burgers are the devil and french fries are little railroad ties on the train track to an early grave. We're not in the business of overdramatizing, here. I just want to encourage you to eat as smartly as you can and know what you're eating. You deserve to be healthy, and I think that with a few suggestions and some facts under your belt, you can take a simple, important step toward being just that.

What is that step?

Eat 'au naturale'.

If I had to sum up what's wrong with 9/10ths of the convenience food that we all (Americans or not!) eat, I would do it like this: It's fake.

Flashy, chemical preservatives. Color-enhancing additives. Oodles of strange sodium constructs to cover the other odd flavors. Processed flours. Processed sugars. Artificial flavors, textures, and scents. These types of things inundate the food we consume from restaurants and from groceries. Take a look at the back of your next pack of crisps and Google every ingredient you don't recognize. Are you sure you want that stuff in your body?

I know I don't. That's why I try to pick up simple, natural foods and avoid all the crazy chemicals. If I can't pronounce its name, I'm pretty sure my stomach won't know what to do with it. Sure, it's not a hard and fast rule, but you'd be surprised by how many of those bifurcated whoseewhatsis chemicals have nothing whatsoever to do with me or you getting sustenance from what we eat.

Snacking Well-Fed:

"Okay, Rhoe. That's great," you say, "but this is a gaming blog. You're supposed to talk about World of Warcraft and fun stuff like that."

True. I want you, as a player sitting in a chair behind a large, bright screen, to be healthy. And I know as well as you do just what influences World of Warcraft and its ilk can put on your life. Food often comes below raiding. Below farming mats for consumables. Below dinging 53. Below tanking that UBRS run. You're hungry, but you have two minutes until the next big thing hits in-game, so you need to grab something super-quick.

That's not necessarily bad. Some experts recommend eating 5 "small meals" a day instead of our standard three. I think that makes a lot of sense from a metabolic standpoint, but the fact is that it's still enough under debate that you should work out what's best for you. Me, I feel better if I eat about four 'snacks' a day and then one reasonably-sized meal (dinner for family time, really). Because of that, I'm always hopping up from the game to go grab a bite of something.

I want to share some ideas for that super-quick snack that are my favorites. I like natural, flavorful, but simple. Take these ideas and the guideline of 'no artificials' and play with them. Find your own snacks with ingredients you can recognize, and tastes you will appreciate on a daily basis. Healthy does not equal yucky. That's a myth of epic proportions, and I hope my snacks will prove that to you:

  • Baby Carrots
    Baby Carrots - I eat mine plain, because I love fresh carrots. A handful of 5 or 6 of these little babies will always quench that little hunger bug. If you like a little extra flavor with yours, I recommend a really simple dip made from plain yogurt and a ranch dressing mix (such as Hidden Valley Ranch's powdered Ranch mix). Take ten minutes to mix it up, and you can store it in the fridge for a week. Best of all, you can grab, dip, and munch between pulls and still have both hands free for pwnage when the next mob is pulled.

  • Celery and Peanut Butter - Well, of course you can eat just celery, but even
    Celery and Peanut Butter
    I find celery sticks alone to be... rather boring. And we're talking about the person who can eat plain rice very happily. Thus, I recommend eating celery sticks with a little dollop of peanut butter. Not only is it tasty, but a good, organic peanut butter has great nut proteins and a large percentage of unsaturated fats as well as vitamin E, niacin, phosphorus and magnesium. In moderation, it's a beautiful supplement to celery, which has very little flavor of its own. As an added bonus, there are some common snack-pack products out there that give you a handful of celery sticks with a little dip-pouch of peanut butter. Read the label and see if you can live with the inevitable preservatives in these, but remember that even baby steps are still steps towards nutritional eating.

  • Fruit and Dairy - Personally, I use Dannon All-Natural Vanilla yogurt as a dip for my fruit when I don't want to eat it plain (which, honestly, I usually do), but you can also use plain yogurt for a less-sweet alternative or even cottage cheese. These are great little snacks because you can get a huge variety of tastes by varying the kind of fruit you pair with your dairy product du jour. Want a bit of crunch? Add some granola to make it even better!

    Baby Carrots
    Best of all, you don't need to keep fresh fruit on hand. I've recently fallen in love with Dole's Plastic Fruit Jars for the ability to eat however much I want, then screw the lid on and save the rest for next time. There's no need to feel like I need to eat an entire can or wonder if that old can with the foil over the top is going to reach up with moldy fingers and bite me when I open it. Even better, the ingredient list on one of these babies is short, sweet, and completely recognizable. Neither Dannon nor Dole sullies the mix with additives or preservatives.

  • Veggie Chips
    Veggie Chips
    - Veggie chips are a great alternative to the usual potato chip. There are sort of two 'types' of veggie chips, though, and you will want to know the difference. The original and authentic veggie chips were lightly salted, flash-fried vegetables that are most often available in the bulk aisle at your local grocery or health food store. As such, they have some fat and sodium content, but it's a small amount when compared to potato chips. Also, they retain a lot of the vitamins and minerals and the unique flavors of the vegetables.

    Also in the 'veggie chips' category are flour based, vegetable-flavored chips that have more of the consistency of potato chips. They are still lower in fat and sodium content than products like Doritos and Lays, but they lack a lot of the natural vitamins and minerals from true veggie chips. They're less authentic, but still a good alternative. What you can find depends on your grocery and your region and sometimes the phases of the moon, so you need to take every product to the firing range and check its ingredients and nutritional information before you judge it fit for consumption. Because my local grocery doesn't carry true, fried veggie chips, I like to get the Jensen's Orchard variety. Just remember, every kind of veggie chip is a little bit different, so if you don't like the first ones you try, that doesn't mean you won't like the second.

  • Rice Cakes
    Rice Cakes - You're groaning; I know. I'm here to tell you that rice cakes don't deserve their reputation, any more. Sure, if you get 'plain' rice cakes, they are a little bland, a little dry, and a lot of BLAH. Not many people get plain rice cakes for a good reason, but Quaker and other manufacturers make some great, flavorful variants that are completely worth checking out. Flavors like Apple Cinnamon and Chocolate Crunch make great banes for a sudden sweet tooth, while Cheddar Cheese and Buttered Pop Corn have that nice, salty tang that makes you crave potato chips. Even the men in my life are willing to admit that the Quaker Rice Snacks I get are worthy of the name food. I'm betting you'll be surprised, too.

It's just a start, but here we have five different snacks that are really just themes for you to explore. Think natural. Think fresh. Think about the foods that your human body was made to consume instead of the crazy stuff we've adopted in this modern day. Next time you're in the grocery, hit the produce section first and skip the soda aisle. Look for snack packs or pre-cut fruit containers. Check out your options in the canned fruit and veggies aisle. Snag some yogurts and other dairy products to use in moderation as your dips and sauces. You can absolutely bring healthy snacks back with you that won't interfere with your play time but will satisfy your cravings.

So, these are my solutions. What are yours?


Anna said...

Vegemite solves all snacking problems!

Nice grainy bread toasted up with Vegemite and you have the ultimate snack!

Phaelia said...

@Anna: Do you come from the land down under? ^_^

@Rhoelyn: Great, great idea for a post. I think some nuts would make for a healthy snack, even if they are perhaps a bit salty. Mr. Phae prefers roasted almonds. I am fairly addicted to sunflower seeds (which are perhaps way too salty to be considered healthy) but really only at work.

We also often have a block or two of rare cheese that we can slice off a few pieces. This compliments a lot of fruits and a glass of wine.

I think one of the things that distresses me most is that juice -- commonly thought of as a healthy alternative to soda -- has so much sugar (even the ones that are 100% juice). I feel better off drinking a Diet Soda than a glass of juice.

Mama Druid said...

What a great topic to address with the Warcraft gaming community!

Baby carrots are always available in our household. They are portable and yummy!

One of the things we make a concerted effort to stay away from is high fructose corn syrup. It's really quite shocking how it's used in pretty much everything... especially juice and bread.

It's scary how we as a society consume foods so readily without questioning their source or even wondering what we are actually putting in our body.

Boy, I could go on and on... but I won't. It's great you brought this up. Hopefully by doing so, some people will begin their own journey of discovering the truth about what they eat.

Anna said...

"Phaelia said...
@Anna: Do you come from the land down under?"

Indeed I am! Its the best place to be :D

Rhoelyn said...


Not being from the land down under, I did a bit of glancing at the nutrition information for Vegemite. I mean, it's got a reputation for being healthy, but I wasn't sure if it really counted as 'au naturale'. It's a process side-effect, after all. Other than a color additive that has some preservatives in it, it's pretty darn natural and has great vitamins. It's not bad on Sodium content, either. I give Vegemite a thumbsup! ... however, if it tastes like my husband's favorite, Marmite, I may have to just pass, anyway. :P


Nuts are a great snack in moderation for just the reasons you mentioned. They are often salted, so the sodium intake adds up quickly, and they are fatty, though it is the 'good' monounsaturated fat. I actually had sunflower seeds on my longer list when I was planning this post, but I didn't want to rant on until everyone went crosseyed. :) Cheese is in the same boat: a great calcium source, but a little fatty and often salty. I would say you've got just the right idea. A bit of cheese here and there with fruit or wine sounds ideal.

As for drinks, I was thinking I might address those in another post, but really what it comes down to is ... water and carefully-screened fruit juices are the only things that follow the 'au naturale' concept. As much as I LOVE Diet Coke, I've trimmed my consumption down to minimums. I mean, you don't get much further from 'au natural' than artificial color, flavor, AND sweetener. :/ A friend of mine insists that Diet Soda kills brain cells, but I'm just going to assert that it ain't natural!

Mama druid,

I ran out of room to talk about high fructose corn syrup, so I'm really glad you brought it up. Yes, it's on the no-list when trying to eat natural foods. Nothing like treated, processed sugars that your body can't even properly digest to mess you up. And they are SO prevalent, as you've noticed. We drink a LOT of water in my house, but our other drinks are all fruit juices. I've been a little afraid to check their labels, honestly, because I doubt I'll like what I see. :/ Good luck avoiding them! It's definitely possible; just less simple.

Thanks for the comments, all!

Rhoelyn said...

Oh! And in terms of drinks, the other great ones are teas. I'm a huge tea drinker. Mmmmm... :D Tea with milk and sugar. My English husband is so proud that his little American drinks her tea 'right'.

Craving tea, now,

Anna said...

Rhoe... Marmite tastes like ASS.. its so aweful.... ugh

Vegemite is an awesome souce of Vitamin B. Its all natural, and other being a little on the salty side.. if you spread it thinly it really is yummy!

And keeps really well!
I found an unopened jar one night in my Girl Guide hall.. Use by date.. 1981.. thats right.. its expired BEFORE I was born... means it was made in the mid 70's! And still looked and smelt fine!