3 tasty snacks for healthy aging

For some, the thought of a fresh, chocolate donut overwhelmingly trumps the idea of a bowl of fruit. However, a new study published in the Nutrition & Diabetes journal showed that it could be possible for those same people to teach themselves to crave the healthier option. According to the research, the seemingly natural preference for high-fat junk food is actually not natural at all. It's a learned behavior that, as a result, can be unlearned, even for those who have loved certain junk foods their whole lives.

"We don't start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta," says Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA, and a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "This conditioning happens over time in response to eating—repeatedly!—what is out there in the toxic food environment."

It's not too late for seniors to shift their enjoyment from fatty foods to healthier alternatives. Try some of these simple, healthy aging recipes that ease you into the transition from junk food.

1. Popcorn clusters
If you're looking for a snack that's both sweet and salty, try this recipe from Cooking Light, which combines a little of all of your favorite foods. Each one is relatively low in calories and fat and can help hold you over until your next meal of the day.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup honey-nut toasted oat cereal
  • 1 ounce pretzel sticks, broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts, salted

Directions
Start by preparing the popcorn. You can either pop it yourself in a Dutch oven or simply microwave a bag of it. Just be sure not to add any extra butter or salt - you'll be able to satisfy those cravings in other ways with this recipe. Next, melt butter in a pan and cook marshmallows for about two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add 3 cups of popcorn and the rest of the ingredients. Mix them together and let stand for several minutes until they cool. Finally, roll them into balls and let them cool again before enjoying. 

2. Sweet granola
With this recipe from Allrecipes.com, you're sure to choose this healthy granola over donuts for your next breakfast. Try adding it to yogurt and fruit for an even healthier morning snack.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or sliced almonds or sunflower seeds)
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoons ground Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (or raisins or other dried fruit)

Directions
First, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Next, get a large bowl and combine both types of oats, pecans and wheat germ. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, and pour over the oat mixture. Stir together until all of the oats are covered and spread the entire mixture onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes and take out to stir every 15 minutes until the oats are toasted. Remove from the heat, add in the dried cranberries and let cool before serving. 

3. Berry blend smoothies
If you prefer to snack on the go, a smoothie just might be your best option. This blend from Oxmoor House is extra sweet and only includes the healthiest ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen unsweetened raspberries
  • 1 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup

Directions
There's just one quick step to this tasty treat. Place all ingredients into a blender and process until it's smooth. Add more orange juice for a lighter drink, and feel free to swap out the frozen fruit with others according to your preference.