GET CRACKING WITH HEALTHY SNACKING
Right now, with many of us working from home, the temptation to snaffle something naughty out of the kitchen is only as far away as the fridge or the biscuit tin! The distinctly difficult working environments in which many of us find ourselves and the many challenges with which we are confronted daily also make comfort eating all the more inviting. In fact, we have it on good authority from a large confectionery company that, during hard lockdown in March, when many creature comforts were officially out of reach, sales of sweets and chocolates soared!
I guess many of us soon realised that unhealthy snacking only added to our worries about our health and certainly didn’t leave us feeling very good.
Now that we’ve made it to 2021 and promised ourselves to improve our eating habits – whether to simply fit back into those beloved jeans or because we know we need to keep our bodies as healthy as possible to keep up our immunity – snacks remain both our biggest temptation and potential salvation.
In theory, snacking is not necessarily bad. We’re told that frequent, smaller meals are good for us – the only problem is that many of those smaller goodies aren’t what would be recommended! Sugary snacks give you a quick boost of energy but, what comes up must come down, and you are often left feeling even more lethargic and craving another sugar boost.
Then comes the convenience factor. Despite the very best of plans, all we need is a busy day and we suddenly revert to our old habits. This could be grabbing a quick packet of chips or a pie to fill the ‘gap’… or putting off stopping for a bite to the point where we finally are desperate enough to grab anything or everything. Last minute nibbling actually not only means making the wrong choices but also over eating as well.
PREPARE FOR HEALTHY SNACKING
As with most good things in life, the trick is to be prepared. As most of us tend to shop less frequently right now, it can even be easier to plan ahead and make sure that the cupboards are stocked with ‘good’ goodies that make snacking choices that little bit easier.
With this in mind, and knowing that if you plan well you are much less likely to revert to your old eating habits, I decided to ask around and see what others had stowed away for tea time breaks or snack time. Of course, I’ve also added in a few of my own ideas. All in all, this comes down to an interesting and sometimes unique take on fairly common foods.
From the outset, I have stayed away from those doughy, sugary type snacks such as breads and muffins that tend to fill hungry tums but come with plenty of unwanted calories and not much nutritional value.
Although there’s nothing wrong with eating carbs now and again, I’ve tried to focus on whole foods that are still great “grab and go” options for those of us who are too busy to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Also, as many are inexpensive, there’s no excuse not to give them a try.
Fruit is the simplest grab and go take-away. If you do have a little time, you could combine several fruits to make a fruit salad or even try something completely different like spiced pineapple – wedges of pineapple sprinkled with paprika, chilli powder or curry powder.
Apple or banana slices with lashes of peanut butter – if you can’t have or don’t enjoy peanut butter, then try almond butter instead.
Dried fruit is another convenient snack to have on hand. Try to buy organic as a lot of the dried fruit on shop shelves is loaded with added sugars and preservatives. When you are stocking up, read the labels to see what has been added. You can also dry your own fruit using a biltong maker or in the oven. A favourite homemade snack idea is dried apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon. Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants and apples are nutrient dense. If you are looking for more ideas, there are some easy recipes on drying fruits on the internet.
Nuts are a super way of getting in additional essential fats. Every type of nut has different nutrients, so buy a mixed bag to reap the benefits. Just a note that they are high in fat so, if you are watching your calories, a handful a day should be sufficient.
Manolis have a wide selection of dried fruit and nuts.
Plain Greek yoghurt with fruit and/or berries – the yoghurt is high in protein, probiotics and vitamin B12 and the berries are high in antioxidants. Add a drizzle of honey for sweetness. If you need a replacement for ice-cream then mix them altogether, spread the mixture out on a baking tray, freeze and cut into squares.
Oats are full of fibre vitamins and minerals. Add oats to your yoghurt to make it more filling. You can also add a banana and raisins for natural sweetness or you could soak your oats overnight in fresh fruit juice which adds to the health benefits of this snack. To make your soaked oats creamier, add some yoghurt with the fruit juice and toss in some fruit before you eat.
Rice cakes with peanut butter, almond butter or homemade hummus. Making your own hummus allows you to add the herbs and spices that you enjoy for more flavour.
Lightly salted popcorn – this is a good source of fibre and is really affordable and easy to make. Try to stay away from the pre-packed microwave popcorn that has loads of fat and salt. If you make it yourself, then you are in control of the fat and spice content. Again, read labels!
Biltong. This could be beef, ostrich or chicken and is a filling snack which is a good source of protein, vitamin A and iron. Try and stay away from the extra fatty variants on offer and remember that game meat (kudu, springbok or eland) also contains less saturated fat.
Roasted chickpeas. This snack is high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Drain a couple tins of chickpeas. If you want them crispy, then pat them dry with a paper towel. Drizzle on some olive oil and spices and bake in the oven.
Sweet potato chips are a great replacement for the commercial bagged crisps plus they are loaded with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Slice the potatoes thinly, sprinkle with olive oil and spices and bake instead of frying. If you are lucky enough to have an air fryer, use that – and you can also air fry other veggies such as beetroot or zucchini to make some interesting crisps. If you are on the fly, you can find healthy veggie crisps at Woolworths.
And if these aren’t enough snack ideas, then what about:
Olives – a healthy snack in a bag. High in vitamin E. Just don’t overdo it as they are usually packed in brine, so are high in sodium.
Vegetables raw, sliced or blanched dipped in hummus or mashed avo.
A cocoa whey shake or a smoothie.
Hard boiled eggs
As you can see, the list is practically endless and, as you google or ask friends, you’ll find more and more options.
When you are craving a snack between meals, try to reach for whole foods as it eliminates all the added sugar, salt, preservatives that convenient store bought snacks can contain. Also, try not to eat just for the sake of it – wait until you feel hungry.
Most importantly of all, do not eat while you are working. Move away from your laptop and focus on eating slowly. That way, you can keep track of how much you are eating and you can make sure that you stop when you have had enough – and not when your packet or snack box is empty!