The squirrel’s natural appetite includes fruits, berries, veggies, nuts, seeds and plants. “Snacking like a squirrel is a great way to get variety and color into your diet,” says Michelle Francis, registered dietitian at American Fork Hospital. “Color helps us get more antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are so important to a healthy diet.”
It’s also true our furry friends don’t have many boundaries when it comes to food choices. We’ve all seen them enjoying a stale sandwich under a picnic table or accepting a chip from a well-meaning tourist. People face similar temptations with leftover birthday cake or the urge to finish the kids’ half-eaten burger and fries. So, let’s focus on the good behaviors of squirrels for inspiration.
“Squirrels aren’t picky eaters, which is a positive trait – it is good to try new things,” adds Michelle. Being open-minded to try new foods can lead to some delicious discoveries and enhance our enjoyment when eating. She encourages us to nibble, “Snacking can be a good thing. You can try some new things in small quantities and snacking keeps you satisfied which helps avoid poor choices.”
A Squirrel's Snack Guide
A good snack guide would be the squirrel’s natural appetite.
Fruits and Berries
Fruits and berries should be eaten with the same enthusiasm as a squirrel. We all get a sugar boost from those apples, strawberries, and cherries, which provides energy to keep us moving throughout the day. Try bananas, oranges, and dried apricots as sources of potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure. Berries and fruits are also cholesterol free.
Veggies and Plants
Veggies and plants are naturally low in fat and calories, and high in dietary fiber. The fiber from carrots, green beans, and red peppers promotes healthy bowel function in people and our woodland friends. They also helps us feel full and lower blood cholesterol levels. All this good fiber may also help reduce blood sugar spikes and may reduce the risk of some cancers.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great snack foods and squirrels have shown us they’re easy to store for later use. Nuts are high in calories, so you will need to limit portions, but they are a “good fat” and can help lower cholesterol levels. Nuts are full of flavor, heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E. Pumpkin, chia, and sunflower seeds, along with nuts, are tasty ways to add protein to snack time. Protein is an important building block for our muscles, bones and blood.
Squirrels spend the time needed to store food and only save the most nutritious items like nuts – never the junk food. They know freezing and drying are great ways to maintain the nutritional value of food. We can take a page from the squirrel diet, says Michelle. “Without much effort, we can make a trail mix with almonds, dried fruit, and sunflower seeds, and portion them out in baggies – ready for a quick snack later. We can freeze fruits, herbs, and veggies for smoothies or soup, and frozen fruit makes a really refreshing snack.”
Here’s to squirreling away some healthy snacks to help us survive these winter months.