It can sometimes be difficult to find healthy nutritious snack foods, especially in today's world of packaged, processed, and preserved products. Sure, some health food stores may carry a few truly “all natural” snacks with ingredient lists that you can actually read, but more often than not these options either taste horrible or cost a fortune.
If you are like most people, you are always making a new commitment to eat three healthy meals a day and cut out the snacking that can quickly add up to a lot of extra calories.
But, the best of intentions are usually waylaid by.....well....life. Before long, you find yourself reaching for that energy bar or extra cup of coffee or even a piece of chocolate from the box hidden in the back of your desk drawer.
Let's face it, snacks are a part of life. They fuel your body and give you the energy to do what needs to get done. Cutting them out probably won't work, so your best choice is to beat those hunger pangs at their own game. Be prepared with some easy to make, nutritious snack foods that will nourish your body and taste great, too. Since you are making them yourself, you will not only save money, but you will also know exactly what is going into the food you are eating.
Snacking can be a good thing if you are making wise choices. You need some carbs for energy before a workout and protein to help your muscles recover. Antioxidants, fiber, and adequate vitamins and minerals are all part of a well-balanced diet. Of course, if you are trying to build muscle, you will choose different options than if you are trying to lose weight. It all comes down to planning ahead and doing what is best for your body. So,don't banish the snacks – embrace them!
Hummus is packed with protein and nutrients to build a strong body, and it will keep you satisfied for several hours, too. You can buy hummus already prepared, but it is very easy to make your own. This recipe for Black Bean Hummus takes less than 10 minutes to make (unless you want to soak and cook your own beans) and it will keep in the fridge for up to one week.
Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy. If it is too thick, add a little more lemon/lime juice or oil.
Pair this yummy dip with fresh veggies, pita bread, or low-fat tortilla chips for a healthy, energy-boosting snack.
Yes, the store-bought granola will work, but it is full of chemicals and preservatives. It only takes a few minutes to make your own, then you can create it to taste and control how much sugars and fats you use. Plus, homemade granola will keep for weeks, so make a large batch.
Mix together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, blend together wet ingredients. Combine. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350º for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container.
Stir into some low-fat Greek yogurt for the perfect blend of sweet and salty that will satisfy your hunger and give you hours of protein packed energy.
Use some of your homemade granola to create a yummy trail mix blend that will
give you protein, healthy fats, fiber, and maybe a little sweetness, too! You can even dry your own fruit such as
pineapple, apples, or cherries. You can use your oven on very low heat; however,
Nesco dehydrators are a fairly inexpensive investment and you don't have to
worry about your food burning.
Blend together nuts, seeds, dried fruit, shredded coconut (coconut chips are yummy!) candied ginger, chocolate chips, and a little whole grain cereal or granola. Store in a container in the refrigerator. You can even pre-package your trail mix into smaller containers that are easy to throw into your purse, gym bag, or lunch pail.
Granola bars provide protein and substance, especially when you are
really hungry; but, packaged options contain a lot of sugar, trans fats, and
preservatives. You can actually whip up a batch of your own granola bars quite
quickly – and they taste better than the ones you buy in the store, too!
Chewy Granola Bars
Heat nut butter and mashed bananas over low heat until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Stir in nut butter and banana mixture. Press into loaf pan or 8X8 baking dish. Bake at 350º for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting. Cut into bars and wrap. Keep refrigerated.
**if you want a sweeter granola bar, add a tablespoon of maple sugar or honey.
If you like something a little crunchier, try this recipe instead....
Nut Butter Granola Bars
Combine dry ingredients. Mix together nut butter, honey, and vanilla. Combine the two mixtures and stir until blended. Press into an 8X8 baking pan. Bake at 350º for 13-15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely before cutting.
Greens are always a healthy option, but who wants to eat a bowl of plain, raw
kale? It only takes a few minutes to transform these boring leaves into
nutritious crispy treats that will satisfy your salty cravings without adding a
lot of fat or calories.
Use a knife to remove the leaves from the thick, middle stem. Break into 2 inch pieces. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to cover each piece with olive oil. Lay kale in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in oven at 170º until crispy. If your oven cannot be set this low, simply turn it to 200º and keep the oven door slightly open while cooking. This will keep the temperature low enough to preserve the maximum amount of nutrients.
For variety, try sprinkling your kale with garlic powder, onion powder, barbeque spice, cayenne powder, or whatever other spice you think would make tasty chips. Of course, you can always buy prepared and seasoned kale chips, but they are VERY expensive.
Do you have a weakness for
potato chips but want to avoid all the salt and unhealthy fats? Well, this
crispy indulgence is no longer taboo – at least not if you make your own. All
you need is a dehydrator and a little patience. It only takes a minute to slice
up the veggies, but it will be 16-24 hours before your chips are ready to eat.
Use a mandolin to thinly slice potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, squash, carrots, or any other root veggie. Lay the slices on the dehydrator tray. Brush with a layer of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Turn the dial to 120º and continue on with your day while your dehydrator does all the work. Yes, there is some waiting involved, but the crispy, delicious, nutritious, result is well worth the time involved.
Be creative with spices and add cinnamon, cayenne, maple, honey, or any other flavoring you may have.
Keep chips in an air tight container. Enjoy alone are with a tasty dip.
Fruit makes an ideal snack since it is full of antioxidants and
vitamins that help keep the body healthy. It is also a great choice when you
are craving something sweet. Pair it with a nutritious yogurt dip to give you
an energy boost that is also packed with protein.
Processed and packaged dips are full of sugar and oils, but it is really easy to make your own. Start with low fat yogurt (Greek is the most nutritious) and add your own ingredients to suit your preference. Pureed pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, honey, chopped walnuts, grated lemon peel are all tasty – and healthy – additions.
More and more people are looking for a lower carb alternative to
grains and flours. This recipe makes a tasty treat – but it is higher in fat
(the good kind) and calories so remember to eat them in moderation.
Mix all ingredients (except chocolate) with electric mixer until well blended. Add in chocolate. Pour into muffin cups and bake 15 minutes at 400º.
**For a sweeter muffin add an extra tablespoon of your choice of sweetener or top with brown sugar, coconut, or chocolate chips.
With a little bit of pre-planning, it is easy to find healthy nutritious snack foods that will satisfy your hunger, give you energy, and nourish your body all at the same time. And, since you know exactly what you are eating, there is no need to ever feel guilty about snacking again!
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I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or ideas you would like to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum