Rather than relying on vending machine munchies to overcome your afternoon slump, pack a few healthy snacks before leaving in the morning. While a typical apple or a bag of baby carrots might seem like an obvious answer, you’ll quickly get bored of the same snacks. Instead, make a colorful mix of mini cucumbers and grape tomatoes for a juicy snack that’s packed full of flavor and nutrients -- and that won’t end up wrapped around your waistline.
A couple of mini cucumbers and a handful of grape tomatoes make for the perfect low-calorie, yet nutritious snack. A mini cucumber has about 10 to 15 calories and a small amount of protein. A 1-cup serving of grape tomatoes has about 30 calories and slightly more than 1 gram of protein. So even if you mindlessly munch on a handful of mini cucumbers and 1 whole cup of grape tomatoes while surfing the Internet or running errands around town, your afternoon snack is still fewer than 100 calories.
Vitamins and Minerals
The Christmas-colored snack is packed with calcium, which helps maintain healthy teeth and bones. The tiny tomatoes have around 2 milligrams each and each mini cucumber has about 17 grams of calcium. Potassium keeps the muscles, nerves and heart functioning properly, while phosphorus is essential for kidney function and nutrient absorption. Each mini cucumber has around 150 milligrams of potassium and 25 milligrams of phosphorus, while each grape tomato has about 40 milligrams of potassium and 4 milligrams of phosphorus.
So if your afternoon snack contains three mini cucumbers and 1 cup of grape tomatoes, you'll be filling your body with around 65 milligrams of calcium, 800 milligrams of potassium and more than 100 milligrams of phosphorus. The average woman needs about 800 milligrams of calcium, 4,700 milligrams of potassium and 580 milligrams of phosphorus per day. While your snack won't satisfy your entire daily intake, it will certainly get you much closer than a bag of potato chips or a chocolate bar would.
Mini cucumbers and grape tomatoes help you fill up on fiber, which does far more than just make your restroom habits a bit more regular. Fiber adds bulk to the body’s waste, making it easier to pass through the digestive tract. By doing so, it protects against hemorrhoids and certain digestive diseases. Dietary fiber also slows the body’s absorption of sugar, which is a big benefit for diabetics and non-diabetics alike. By keeping your belly full for longer, fiber can also help you avoid that second helping of dinner or dessert -- ultimately preventing excessive calorie intake and weight gain.
A mini cucumber has about 1 gram of fiber, while a 1-cup serving of grape tomatoes gives you about 2 grams. An adult woman should aim for a daily intake of about 20 to 25 grams of fiber. Munching on a few baby cucumbers and a hefty handful of grape tomatoes satisfies about one-quarter of this requirement.
Grape tomatoes are packed with antioxidants -- specifically lycopene, which boosts the immune system and protects against cancer. It’s what gives grape tomatoes their bright red hue. According to MayoClinic.com, a tomato’s antioxidants also protect against heart disease and degeneration of the eyes.
You'll certainly reap the antioxidant benefits of the colorful veggies by snacking on them in their most natural form -- but this can get a bit boring. You can dice the veggies and add them to a salad or tuck them into your favorite sandwich. The veggies can also be drizzled with olive oil or rice vinegar for an extra hint of subtle flavor. Or, dice the cucumber into tiny pieces, mix it with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and use it as a creamy dip for your grape tomatoes -- although the yogurt adds a few more calories to the snack, it also adds a healthy dose of protein and calcium.
Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.