5 Tips for Choosing Autoimmune-Friendly Packaged Snacks
February 19th, 2018
Let’s face it, life is busy! Between work, family, friends, and everything else on your plate, you’ve got a lot going on. When you’re starving because it’s 3:00 and you haven’t had a chance to eat since breakfast, it’s hard to stay on track. I know! I’ve been there, too. And if you’re following The Myers Way® Autoimmune Solution protocol, it can be especially tricky to navigate the grocery store for autoimmune-friendly snacks. Gluten and dairy can hide out under confusing names on ingredient labels, and so many “convenience” foods contain grains, nuts and seeds, or other inflammatory ingredients that can worsen autoimmune conditions.
While for good health you should aim to eat real, whole foods as much as possible, I understand that when you’re on the go sometimes you just need the convenience of a prepackaged snack. Even as the world has become flooded with packaged snacks that are organic, Paleo, and autoimmune protocol (AIP) friendly, it really comes down to reading (and understanding!) ingredient labels. Many packaged foods are not really food at all, and products labeled “non-GMO,” “all natural,” or “gluten-free” can be loaded with sweeteners, preservatives, and other processed junk. And though a product might be Paleo diet friendly, it could contain non-AIP ingredients, so you even have to be careful of those.
That’s why the key is to prepare for success when it comes to autoimmune-friendly snacks! Knowing what to look for will help you find real foods that won’t move you back up the autoimmune spectrum and disrupt all the progress you’ve made while following The Autoimmune Solution protocol. I’ve compiled the following tips to help you make smart choices when shopping for autoimmune-friendly packaged snacks, so those little pick-me-ups can be part of a healthy meal plan.
1. Look for High-Protein Snacks
Research has shown that adding more protein to your diet helps you lose weight by sending the “stop eating” signal to your brain.1 Many snacks, especially those advertised as “nutrition” bars are really just desserts masquerading as a health food. Packed with carbs and sweeteners and lacking the necessary protein to keep you feeling full, these snack bars will cause a huge spike in your insulin levels, which will leave you hungry again as your blood sugar plummets, leading you to search for another quick fix. Even natural sweeteners including maple syrup, honey, and molasses can have this effect on your blood sugar. Over the long term, you will begin to feel sluggish, gain weight, and may even be setting yourself up for insulin resistance and diabetes.
Choosing a snack that is high in protein will help you avoid those pitfalls that drive you to overeat or reach for something that will derail your progress. For those of you who have completed the reintroduction phase of The Autoimmune Solution protocol, my NEW grab-and-go Chewy Chocolate Paleo Bar is perfectly balanced to handle those between-meal cravings! This travel-friendly snack contains a whopping 12 grams of clean-sourced grass-fed beef protein per bar, perfect for between meals and before or after a workout.
2. Look for Snacks High in Fiber and Healthy Fats
When looking for grab-and-go options, you also want to choose a snack that contains plenty of healthy fats and fiber to help sustain you through to your next meal and avoid the dreaded sugar crash. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people with diabetes who ate 50 grams of fiber a day were better able to control their blood glucose levels than those who ate much less.2 Healthy fats are necessary for providing your body with the energy it needs to work properly, assisting with vitamin absorption, and controlling inflammation.3
My Coconut Joy Fiber Bars will satisfy your craving for something sweet, and are excellent for keeping you full, energized, and focused. These decadent chocolate-covered coconut bars contain 11 grams of prebiotic fiber to support a healthy microbiome and blood sugar balance, and are rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) to support fat burning and weight control.
I’m also super excited to introduce my NEW Mint Joy Fiber Bars, which have 13 grams of fiber and taste just like a peppermint patty! I keep one in my purse at all times just in case I get tied up and need a snack while I’m on-the-go. You can enjoy any of these bars once you’ve started the reintroduction phase of the Autoimmune Solution protocol.
3. Read the Label and When in Doubt, Go Without
Ingredient labels will be your roadmap for navigating the snack aisle. You’ll want to avoid any products that contain:
- Dairy (including whey protein)
- Corn (including corn flour, cornmeal, and high-fructose corn syrup)
- Gluten-free grains and pseudo-grains (amaranth, millet, rice, oats, quinoa)
- Nightshades (tomato, pepper, eggplant, potatoes)
- Nuts, nut butters, and seeds
- Legumes (beans, garbanzos, lentils, peas, peanuts)
- Vegetable or seed oils
Gluten is the biggest culprit to keep an eye out for when scrutinizing food labels. In packaged snacks, gluten can hide out under the following additives and preservatives:
- Artificial coloring
- Baking powder
- Caramel and other coloring/flavoring
- Citric acid (can be fermented from wheat, corn, molasses, or beets)
- Glycerides and diglycerides
- Emulsifiers and stabilizers
- Fat replacers
- Food starch, modified food starch, and wheat starch
- Glucose syrup
- “Natural flavors”
- Vegetable protein
And be sure to read the label every time, even on products you routinely buy because companies could change up the ingredients in their products at any time. If a product contains an ingredient that is unfamiliar to you or you’re unsure whether or not it contains foods that are non-Autoimmune Solution protocol compliant, you’re better off skipping it. It isn’t worth derailing your progress and risking a potential flare-up. Just remember my motto: when in doubt, go without.
4. Prepare for Success
Going to the grocery store and navigating shelves lined with seemingly endless choices can be overwhelming for anyone. Your best bet for making smart choices in the snack aisle is to come prepared with a list of options you know are AIP approved. Some of my favorite ready-made snacks include:
- Avocado or other fresh fruit
- Coconut yogurt (such as Culina)
- Nature’s All organic freeze-dried fruit
- Vital Choice wild salmon jerky or free range bison jerky
- Organic Gemini Tigernuts
- Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips
- Bone broth (such as Bare Bones)
- Epic Hickory Smoked Bacon Bites or Pork Rinds
- Dang Coconut Chips
- Artisana Raw Coconut Butter Squeeze Packs
- Yucan Crunch Crackers
- Paleo Angel Power Balls
- Plantain chips (such as Terra)
I recommend the above brands for their clean ingredient lists and great taste, although you can certainly choose similar snacks made by other companies. Just be sure the brands you choose are certified organic and gluten-free, and don’t contain any inflammatory or toxic foods.
Try pairing foods with lower amounts of protein and healthy fats with a snack that is higher in those nutrients to make it more satisfying (such as freeze-dried fruit mixed with coconut yogurt).
5. Make Your Own
By far the best strategy to ensure your snacks are autoimmune-friendly is to make them yourself! That way, you can choose only healthful, clean, real-food ingredients that you know will not ignite an immune response and move you further up the spectrum. Plus, you can custom make them to your own tastes, and probably save a few bucks too!
For some great snack ideas along with more than 150 other recipes specially designed to prevent and reverse the full spectrum of autoimmune diseases, you’re going to love my book, The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook.
With a little planning, snacks, whether prepackaged or homemade, can definitely be part of an autoimmune diet!