Snacking has gained a bad reputation over the years, being blamed for everything from weight gain to all the stupidity that happens in the universe. Still, most people have at least one snack a day, defined as something eaten between meals. So are snacks good or bad for you? Like everything else, it’s complicated. And the answer isn’t so much about whether we snack, but what we’re snacking on.
Snacks can be a regular and important part of a healthful diet, especially for active kids. They can replenish energy after exercise and can help keep energy stores level so you don’t bounce from low to high sugar levels and back or overeat when you finally do get to a meal. But if your concept of snacking is eating a bag of Oreos or potato chips while sitting on the couch watching a bad movie on TV, that can be a problem.
Most nutritionists recommend you plan your daily snacks the same way they advise planning your meals, by asking yourself four simple questions:
1. When: Figure out when your energy levels are likely to be low and when you might be tempted to grab something extra. If you’re away from home, plan to take snacks with you if you’ll be in situations where the alternative might be a candy bar from the nearest vending machine.
2. Why: Are you truly snacking because you need the food or are you bored, depressed or simply craving sugar or salt? In the later cases alternative strategies might be in order.
3. What: The best snacks should alleviate hunger and help you forget about food until your next meal. Pay attention to your cravings — not satisfying them with the snack you choose might result in having an additional snack and overeating. A mix of proteins, carbohydrates and small amounts of healthy fats, with vitamins and antioxidants, and high in fiber and water content will be the most successful in filling you up. Go for whole grains over processed foods and complex carbohydrates over white sugar. Above all the snack should be interesting and enjoyable — pay attention to textures, flavors and variety.
4. How much: A good snack should fill you up but not interfere with your next meal. A general rule is to aim for 150 to 250 calories. Read nutrition labels for information on serving size, ingredients and avoid those with high fat, sodium or added sugars. Snack mindfully, portion out an appropriate serving and then put the rest away before you eat. Store healthy snacks at eye level and less healthy snacks where they are hard to see or reach. Remember, you’re not a bad person if you eat an unhealthy snack once in a while … the key is balance and moderation in everything.
So this week I checked out some new recipes that might be used for snacks, taking advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of year and recognizing that in 90-degree weather, frozen is fun.
I started with some veggie spring rolls. Soaking the rice paper rounds makes them a bit fragile but after the first few I got the feel of when they should come out of the water and could be handled without tearing. The recipe calls for carrots, cucumber, avocado and purple cabbage, but you can fill them with any combination of shredded or julienned fresh veggies that makes you happy. You could also add a bit of protein by mixing in a spoonful or two of peanut butter or some chopped chicken or shrimp. A tasty dipping sauce can also add complexity to the flavors. They were surprisingly filling and make a healthful snack, but you could also serve them up for dinner as we did.
Strawberries and guacamole might seem to be strange bedfellows, but I had the ingredients on hand for this quick and easy recipe and was intrigued by the concept so I made a batch. Choose medium to large strawberries to get the best ratio of berry to filling while still being small enough to eat in one or two bites. The recipe suggests serving them on top of tortilla chips or crackers, but we didn’t have any on hand. They would add a crunchy and/or salty component to the snack but were still tasty without. Whole-grain crackers or baked tortilla chips would make the healthiest choices and you could further lighten up the calorie content by using half yogurt and half mayo in the guacamole.
For frozen treats I made Froyo Fruit Cups two ways. I started with the original recipe: vanilla Greek yogurt with blueberries and raspberries. The tanginess of yogurt and the berries made me want to add some sweetness and crunch to the combination and probably a few more berries than suggested as well — honey, cinnamon or nutmeg or even a touch of heat would have made them more interesting. The second version, strawberry Greek yogurt topped with diced strawberries and peaches with a little granola was the more successful combination, so experiment with all the bounty available this time of year.
A few hints: Freeze the cups until they are set up, then remove them from the muffin tins and finish freezing on a tray or they will stick to the tins and be hard to remove. Also, don’t make them too thick or they will be hard to bite through. Let them warm up for a just a few minutes so you can easily remove the liners before serving, but don’t wait too long or they’ll melt.
And finally I made some banana pops. Nice Cream — essentially ice cream made frozen bananas instead of custard and flavored with the ingredients of your choice — is trending these days; a friend sent me some recipes as an idea for a future column. But banana pops are simple, fun and afford an endless variety of topping options. Plus they’re a great way to get the kids involved in their own snacking choices. Start with a chunk of banana on a stick. You can make them as large or as small as you want. Then spread a thin layer of your chosen ingredient: yogurt, cream cheese, nut butters, chocolate, etc., over the outside of the banana. And finally roll the coated banana in the toppings selected. Freeze for a couple of hours (if you can wait that long) and you’ve got a healthy banana-cicle to hand out on a warm summer’s day.
So next time you’re tempted to reach for that bag of potato chips or cookies, consider an alternative more likely to fill you up but not stick with you for the rest of your life. I hope these ideas get you started. Happy snacking!
Source: Adapted from a recipe from Eatwell 101.
1 package of rice paper rounds
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 avocado, sliced
Grated or julienned carrots
1/4 cup purple cabbage, thinly sliced
Basil, to taste
Cilantro, to taste
Mint, to taste
1 small jalapeño, sliced
1. Soak rice paper sheets in warm water until soft. About 15-30 seconds. Process one sheet at a time otherwise they will stick together.
2. Lay a rice paper sheet out on a clean surface and place a small amount of each ingredient in the center. Play with different combinations of ingredients, add lime juice, chili sauce or other spices if you like.
3. Fold both sides over the filling, and gently roll up. Serve with your favorite spicy hot dipping sauce and enjoy.
For a dipping sauce: mix1/4 cup Soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sriracha, or to taste, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil, or to taste
Add some protein to this recipe by mixing in 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter or some diced chicken or chopped seafood such as shrimp or crab.
Stuffed Strawberries with Guacamole
Source: by Christina Cherrier, Eatwell 101, Feb. 19, 2021.
1. To make the guacamole stuffed strawberries: Rinse strawberries and drain in a colander. Cut the top and carve a small hole in the core of the strawberry with the tip of a knife. Then cut a small portion of the bottom so the strawberry can stand straight.
2. Peel the avocado and remove the core. Mash the avocado in a bowl until it reaches a smooth consistency, add mayonnaise, lime juice, salt and chili pepper flakes. Transfer to a pastry bag or a cone made of parchment paper.
3. Pipe the guacamole into the strawberries, sprinkle with chopped chives and chili flakes if you want.
4. Arrange the guacamole stuffed strawberries on a serving platter, or put on top of tortilla chips or crackers of your choices and serve immediately.
Columnist’s note: You can lighten up the guacamole by using half plain yogurt and half mayo. Also, try baked tortillas or whole-grain crackers for healthy serving options.
Froyo Fruit Cups
Source: Adapted from Betsy Carter, BuzzFeed Tasty.
1. Arrange 12 cupcake liners in a muffin tin.
2. Using a spoon, dollop two tablespoons of yogurt into the bottom of each liner.
3. Top with blueberries and raspberries.
4. Freeze until set, them remove from the tins to prevent the liners from sticking to the tins. Finish freezing on a tray.
5. Remove cupcake liners before serving.
Don’t make the cups too thick or they will be difficult to bite through when frozen.
Experiment with different yogurt and fruit options, add crunch to your toppings with granola or toasted oats.
Mix a little honey into the yogurt to add sweetness or add spices and even a little heat to enhance flavors.
Source: by Oven Love, modernparentsmessykids.com.
Bananas (small bananas will make 2 pops, large ones can make 3)
Spreads: cream cheese (see Note 1), yogurt, dark chocolate (see Note 2), peanut butter, Nutella, Biscoff, whatever you like
Toppings: oats, granola, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, crushed graham crackers, cookie crumbs, shredded coconut, sprinkles, chopped dried fruit, etc.
1. Prepare a cookie sheet with a layer of parchment paper.
2. Peel bananas and cut off each end. Cut the bananas in half or thirds, depending on the size. Carefully insert a popsicle stick into the banana.
3. Using a knife, thinly spread your desired coating onto the banana. (For melted chocolate, yogurt or thinner spreads, dipping may be more practical.)
4. Roll the banana in your toppings (a shallow bowl or plate works well), using your hands to add more topping if your banana is curved. Place on the parchment paper. Repeat with remaining bananas.
5. Freeze the bananas for 2-4 hours. Serve or place in a freezer bag for up to a week.
Note 1: Cream cheese must be very soft to spread onto the bananas, so make sure it is warm or room temperature. You can also doctor it up with honey and cinnamon for more flavor.
Note 2: To create a good dipping chocolate, add 1 tablespoon o
f coconut oil to each 3 ounces of chocolate and heat until melted. This will create a hard shell when frozen.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Snacks in the summer are easy to make and good for you