By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

As a health coach, I’ve learned that in order to help my clients achieve their goals it’s crucial that I first meet them where they are in regard to their current lifestyle. This helps us temper any unrealistic expectations of radical and immediate behavior changes.

With time constraints being a top barrier to making healthy lifestyle changes, it’s important for us to consider the best way to snack better.

In 2015, the consumer and market research group Nielson released their findings of the “Global Survey of Snacking.” After polling more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries on their snacking habits, they concluded that $374 billion was spent on snack foods between 2013 and 2014.

According to their online report, “More than three-quarters of global respondents (76 percent) eat snacks often or sometimes to satisfy their hunger between meals or to satisfy a craving, and 45 percent of global respondents consume snacks as a meal alternative—52 percent for breakfast, 43 percent for lunch and 40 percent for dinner.”

It’s no wonder that the term “snackification” has been popping up in many journals and articles related to food.
As someone who bought into the theory that eating five to six small meals throughout the day was optimal—this has become controversial and may not be the best way to eat after all—I’ve become accustomed to snacking.

But after following a 30-day whole foods eating plan in January, I learned to snack without chips, crackers, dairy, gluten or sugar. It was a great experiment and I’d like to share several of my favorite, cost effective, healthy and delicious whole food snacks with you.

First, the more obvious ones: nuts and whole fruits.

Secondly, I learned to replace crackers with raw zucchini or cucumber rounds. Their subtle and fresh flavors work well with hummus, tapenades, meats, guacamole and herbs.

Please note that zucchini and cucumbers are on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list. This means that it’s in our best interest to purchase them when grown organically. While organically grown food is often scorned as being too expensive, a couple of organic zucchinis are often less expensive than a small box of crackers.

Both of these vegetables are on the dirty dozen list because, when grown conventionally using synthetic pesticides, they routinely test positive for pesticides that have been linked to cancer, Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, respiratory illness, abnormal immune system function and neurotoxins that can affect children’s brain development, even at low doses. (How these pesticides are allowed in the production of our food at all is perplexing, but that’s the current state of affairs in the agriculture and food industries).

And finally, my absolute favorite whole foods snack is apple, nut butter and coconut sandwiches. To make them, simply slice an apple into one-quarter-inch slices, spread your favorite nut butter on one side, place another apple slice on top and coat with unsweetened shredded coconut. Apples are also on the dirty dozen list, so please buy organic when possible.

Not only is this snack as delicious as any donut or cupcake out there, it leaves you feeling healthy and satisfied. If you have children, consider including them in the preparation.

Happy snacking!

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach and Consultant, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at jackie@corehealthmt.com.