Smart snacking that can boost your fitness routine

Eating right and exercising are the two most important elements of a healthy lifestyle. We hear it time and again that these simple principles hold more power than the latest fad diet, and for those who heed the advice, the proof is in the results. However, it’s not always easy to figure out what’s really good for you in the process of building – or maintaining – a healthy body.

There’s no question about it: if you’re exercising regularly, the food you eat should support your workout routine. Whether you’re a casual visitor to the gym three times a week or training for your first 100-mile bike ride, proper nutrition is essential. That means paying attention to the nutrient content of the foods you’re eating, as your body will use and demand them differently than if you were living a sedentary lifestyle. And don’t be fooled – there are lots of foods which are packed with sugar and calories, with no or few important nutrients, aimed at athletes.

For fitness fanatics and newcomers alike, smart snacking options can provide an added boost of nutrients that the body needs – even when you’re on the go. Consider making a combination of these snacks a regular part of your routine.

* Pistachios. Not all nuts are the same, and studies are increasingly finding that these little green treats might just be an athlete’s best friend. Pistachios are packed with nutrients that rank among the most important for optimal performance and health. They provide wholesome protein that is crucial for building and repairing muscle, in addition to gamma-tocopherol (a member of the vitamin E family) that has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant nutrients, which can be sapped during intensive exercise. The healthy fats in pistachios, which are the “Official Snack” of the USA Water Polo Men’s and Women’s teams, are no threat to your workout results, either – in fact, they’ll bolster your routine because they are a fuel for endurance.

* Fruits and vegetables. The USDA‘s new dietary guidelines make no bones about it – fruits and vegetables are an incredibly important part of a healthy diet. And for athletes, they’re a great source of vitamins and minerals that are important when your body is subjected to the extra demands of exercise. Choosing fruits and vegetables over juices can also give you added fiber to keep your body healthy. Whether you pack fresh or dried fruits and veggies for your pre- or post-workout snack, you can be sure that you’re giving your body the extra vitamins it needs for top performance.

* Whole grains. No, you don’t need to carry a loaf of bread with you. Instead, look for small, portable bars that offer the multiple benefits of natural whole grains. They’re yet another source of healthy fiber that can help keep you going and will keep you from feeling hungry again shortly after you’ve eaten. And because they’re whole, these grains retain much of their vitamin content that your body craves. If you can find bars that incorporate honey, so much the better, as it is yet another great source of energy.

Taking care of your body will help it serve you well over the years, whether you’re a student athlete, an active senior or anywhere in between. To do so, keep in mind that fitness and nutrition always go hand in hand and you’ll be able to get the results you really want. For more information about healthy snacking, visit, where you’ll also find delicious recipes like Thyme and Garlic Pistachios.

Thyme and Garlic Pistachios by Chef Grant MacPherson

1 pound American pistachios, in-shell

4 sprigs thyme, chopped

1/2 ounce garlic, sliced

4 tablespoons canola oil

Sea salt to taste

Warm canola oil in roasting pan on the stovetop, add the pistachios and toast. Add the sliced garlic and thyme sprigs, continue toasting until the garlic and thyme have coated the pistachios; season with sea salt to taste. Remove from heat, serve warm in the vessel of your choice.