It's beach season. No, it's football season. No, it's back-to-school season. With temperatures in the 90s, UConn's first game (Aug 29] and freshman orientation getting closer, maybe it's all three.
For the hard-snacking consumer, it's a confusing time of year. The Bottom Line advocates smart snacking, with some obvious strategic exceptions. (Hello, office candy drawer.)
Here's the official TBL good-for-you snack guide, wherever you may be snacking:
Michelle Dudash, a registered dietitian and author of "Clean Eating for Busy Families," says tailgaters should be prepared for both the August heat and the October chill.
"What comes to mind with tailgating," says Dudash, "is people drinking alcohol, so you really need to make sure you're replacing your electrolytes. You want to make sure you're staying hydrated. Then you want to have endurance to keep that energy going because it's a long day, even for people who aren't drinking alcohol.
"These are all electrolytes," says Dudash. "They're important for maintaining your fluid status."
>> Cheese and crackers. This standby snack gives the body more electrolytes, with potassium, calcium and some sodium. "It's a winning snack for a tailgate day," says Dudash.
>> Trail mix: Pistachios, raisins, oatmeal granola clusters. If you prefer more salt, make it an all-nut mix. Pretzels, too. "The nuts give you protein," says Dudash. "The raisins or the pretzels are going to give you some carbs."
>> Almond-butter-and-jelly-sandwich on sprouted-wheat bread, especially smart if you're bringing the kids. This twist on the conventional PBJ provides a greater variety of nutrients, says Dudash. "And with almond butter," she says, "you know they're not adding any other ingredients. It's just almond butter."
Another alternative to peanut butter: Sunflower-seed butter. For those allergic to peanuts, Dudash recommends SunButter (www.sunbutter.com), which is made in a peanut-free facility.
In The Sun
>> Red fruits and vegetables (lycopene). Dudash suggests cherry tomatoes skewered with mozzarella and fresh basil and drizzled with olive oil. Also: red bell pepper strips with hummus. Wash it down with tomato juice (or a Bloody Mary).
>> Egg yolks (as in egg salad), sweet-potato chips, kale chips (carotenoids).
>> Green tea, on ice (catechins). "Green tea is nice," says Dudash. "It has less caffeine [than coffee] and it's giving you all those wonderful disease-fighting antioxidants."
>> Dark chocolate (flavanols): Dudash likes a cocoa nib trail mix or high-grade dark chocolate with 60 percent or higher cocoa. .(TBL recommends the "Pound Plus" 72 percent dark chocolate bars at Trader Joe's for $4.99.)
>> Red wine or dark purple grape juice (polyphenols): This could mean sangria for adults, juice boxes for the kids.
The Day After(The Hangover)
OK, it happens. Replace electrolytes and fluids while gaining relief from possible nausea
A mix of some of the snacks recommended above should help.
>> Cheese sticks and crackers (whole-grain) to resupply the body with potassium, calcium and sodium.
>> Sweet-potato chips and coconut water (potassium, sodium).
>> Roasted chickpeas and bananas (Vitamin B6). For a heavier dose, Dudash suggest 25 milligrams of vitamin B6 tablets three times on the hangover day.
>> Ginger: ginger chews, gingersnap cookies. This will help settle the stomach.
Back At The Office
When the fun ends, it's back to work.
"The main goals are staying alert and keeping fatigue at bay," says Dudash.
>> Nuts and seeds. (Healthy protein.) Dudash recommends hemp hearts. "That's more of an up-and-coming type of thing you don't see everywhere yet," she says. "They're from the hemp plant and taste like sunflower seeds. They actually have nice, pleasant nutty taste but they're packed with protein. They have a ton of nutrients."
Also: Get Vitamin E from almonds, fewer calories from pistachios. "Variety is a good thing" in the nut world, says Dudash.
>> More coconut water. Stay hydrated in dry offices. "When we're the least bit dehydrated," says Dudash, "you can feel the fatigue setting in."
Also: Plain water, green tea. Limit coffee intake. "There is such a thing as too much caffeine," says Dudash. "Two cups of coffee a day is about where you want to stop."
>> Dark chocolate: Packed with flavanols and also helps you relax.
"Make it a couple squares in a sitting," says Dudash. "If you have a couple, it's 90 calories. That's a totally reasonable snack. More than that and the calories do add up."
>> Whole fruit: The only food any worker should keep on a desk, says Dudash.