By Amy S. White
Many of us eat heavier foods in winter. We might carry on with the holidays’ excess, reaching for carbs, cakes, and cookies to comfort us on chilly, dark days. Spring arrives, and we are a few pounds heavier and want to break the cycle.
The trick may be in the snacks. It’s nearly impossible to get through the day without something between meals. Good news: as long as it’s the right kind of snack, indulging once or twice a day can improve metabolism and mental health. They offer fuel for our bodies and a treat for our senses.
What is the “right” kind of snack? What does “healthy” mean? Good snacks energize and provide a nutritional boost. They should also be satisfying, delicious and joy-inducing. Mixing protein with carbohydrates or fats will keep us full longer. Combining flavors (think salty and sweet) and textures (crunchy and creamy) will keep our taste buds content.
Finally, it has to be convenient. Skip the vending machines because we all know processed foods aren’t good for us. With a few easy-to-make, easy-to-take healthy snacks, we can avoid the temptations of chips and candy bars.
Here are three basic recipes—perhaps “formulas” is a better description—that both meet the “healthy snack” criteria and offer infinite opportunities for variety. There are seven “inspirations” for each recipe to get started. The one-bite wonder protein ball is nicely portable for on-the-go snacking. Then, transform the traditional smoothie into a smoothie bowl with delicious and nutritious toppings. Finally, grab some veggies, crackers or toasted pita bites and dip them in homemade hummus with flavors beyond plain chickpeas.
Our body needs to feel good, and our taste buds need to feel happy. When we control what goes into our snacks, we can feel better about grazing when the mood strikes.
2 cups frozen fruit
½ cup liquid (milk or juice of choice, or use yogurt)
1 banana or avocado (to thicken)
Additions or toppings, such as protein powder, spices, nuts and seeds, additional fruit, granola, cereal, shredded coconut, etc., to taste
Blend together the frozen fruit and liquid. Add the banana and continue to blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and top with favorite toppings. Make ahead of time and freeze in an airtight container; microwave for 30 seconds or so to thaw.
Very Very Berry: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and mixed berry yogurt, and top with added berries
Banana Split: bananas and plain yogurt, and top with strawberries, chocolate chips or cocoa nibs
Tropical Beach: pineapple, mango and vanilla yogurt, and top with shredded coconut and sliced kiwi
Peaches and Cream: peaches and vanilla yogurt, and top with granola and a swirl of heavy cream
Fall Flavors: pumpkin puree and plain yogurt, top with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds, and add a sprinkle of cinnamon
Chocolate, Banana and Peanut Butter: banana and peanut butter (instead of yogurt), and top with chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, sliced bananas and/or peanuts
“Ban-avocad-oat”: banana, avocado, and plain or vanilla yogurt, and top with granola or rolled oats
1 15-ounce can of beans (black beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, etc.)
½ cup optional roasted vegetable (beets, sweet potato, red pepper, etc.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon nut butter, tahini (sesame paste), or Greek-style yogurt
1-2 teaspoons citrus juice or vinegar, to taste
Seasoning(s), such as freshly chopped herbs, cumin, paprika, grated garlic or ginger, toasted seeds, salt and pepper, etc., to taste
Optional drizzle of sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, etc.)
Optional garnishes, such as chopped fresh herbs, sprinkle of spice, nuts, seeds, etc.
Something to dip into it!
Drain and rinse the beans and place in a food processor with roasted vegetable mash if using. Add olive oil, nut butter or tahini or yogurt, and seasonings. Puree until smooth. Add citrus juice or vinegar, seasonings, and sweetener to taste and continue to puree until smooth. Place in a bowl, garnish and dip away!
Roasted Beet: add roasted beet mash, and season with cinnamon and cloves
Black Bean: black beans, plain yogurt, chopped chiles and lime juice
Spicy Curry: season with curry powder, ground turmeric, grated ginger and cayenne
Herbed Pesto: use pesto instead of the nut butter or yogurt
Avocado: add ½ avocado, and season with cumin and cilantro
Lemon Dill: season with garlic, dill and lemon zest
Roasted Red Pepper: add roasted red pepper, and season with a dash of sriracha
No Bake Protein Balls
Makes a dozen
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats (a good option is Bob’s Red Mill)
½ cup nut butter of choice
2 tablespoons sweetener, such as honey, agave or maple syrup
1½ tablespoons protein powder in flavor of choice
1-2 tablespoons additional ingredients for flavor and variety (e.g., coconut, chocolate chips, raisins, etc.), to taste
Stir together ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. If the mixture is too crumbly, add a teaspoon or two of water or milk of choice until it is moist enough to stick together. Roll into balls and store in the refrigerator in a covered container.
Chocolate Peanut Butter: use peanut butter and chocolate protein powder, and add mini chocolate chips
Oatmeal Cookie: use cashew butter and vanilla protein powder, and add raisins and a dash of cinnamon
PB&J: use peanut butter and vanilla protein powder, and dried cranberries or chopped dates
Almond Joy: use almond butter and vanilla protein powder, and add chocolate chips and shredded coconut
Carrot Cake: use cashew butter and vanilla protein powder, and add shredded carrot and a dash of ground ginger
Lemon Poppyseed: use almond butter and vanilla protein powder, and add poppyseeds and the zest of one lemon
Nut and Honey: use peanut butter and vanilla protein powder, and add chopped nuts