Constant craving — snacking done right

By Kelly Putter

Is your new year’s resolution to eat healthier? Or to make better choices when that 3 p.m. slump hits and you give into your sweet tooth? You’re not alone if that’s your vice – Canadians are a nation of snack monsters with people replacing at least one meal a day for a quick bite. And about half of us nibble at least twice a day, with 17 per cent snacking at least three times daily, according to Technomic, a trend tracking research firm for the food industry.

It’s true – three square meals a day are increasingly being replaced by our growing penchant for snacks. Since snacks are often associated with unhealthy ingredients like sugar, fat and salt, they contribute to poor dietary habits and can lead to a host of health issues.

When snacking, it’s always a good idea to begin by managing your portion size. Homemade trail mix is an awesome snack, but not if you down a cup or two. Never eat snacks out of the bag or box as it’s easy to overdo it. Instead place single portions on a plate or in a bowl.

According to Eat Right Ontario, avoid snacking when you’re bored, tired or angry. Also try not to eat when watching TV or at your computer or device. The distraction often results in mindless overeating.

A yogurt and berry parfait is a refreshing snack that’s tasty and good for you. Layer one cup of low-fat yogurt followed by a sprinkling of homemade granola for crunch and a tablespoon of berries. To make them extra pretty use a tall glass and do multiple layers. You can even make these ahead of time. Just be sure to cover them up before storing in the fridge.

Who doesn’t love tortilla chips? While a moderate amount is fine, if you have trouble stopping at 10, why not try substituting sweet peppers. You still get the crunch and so many health benefits. Simply cut sweet peppers into chip-size pieces then pair with a quarter-cup of homemade guacamole for a delicious and nutrient-rich snack.

Cheese is often considered a big no-no if you’re trying to lose weight. But you don’t have to eliminate it entirely. Select a lower-fat version of your favourite cheese and pair 1.5 ounces with three rye crackers. That ought to take the edge off any mid-afternoon hunger pangs. Also, try substituting cream cheese for mayo when making sandwiches as it has about one third the calories. Spreadable cheese wedges are a tasty, low-cal treat. Try them on your favourite bagel or biscuit or simply spread cheese on apple slices then dip in granola and dust with a bit of cinnamon.

Popcorn is a beautiful snack because it hits all the right notes: salty or sweet or a combo of those two, crunchy, light on calories and big on taste. DIY is your best bet because it eliminates unsavoury additives and chemicals from store-bought versions. Try tossing two cups freshly popped popcorn with one teaspoon of cinnamon and the same amount of stevia in a paper bag. Or for a more savoury treat, how about mixing fresh rosemary and freshly grated parmesan cheese with fresh popcorn? The flavour possibilities are endless.

Overnight chia seed pudding is the perfect sweet treat. Thick and creamy, this nutrient-dense pudding makes the perfect snack, dessert or breakfast. With only six ingredients it’s also a breeze to whip up. Combine one-and-a-half cups of unsweetened fortified almond milk with one-third chia seeds, one-quarter cup cocoa, two to five tablespoons maple syrup or puréed dates, one-quarter teaspoon sea salt and a half-teaspoon vanilla. Whisk vigorously or let your blender to the work. Let rest in fridge at least three to five hours or preferably overnight.

Hummus is a tasty and filling snack that is easy to make and pairs nicely with other foods. Drain a can of chickpeas and pour into a food processor. Add one clove garlic, one tablespoon tahini or nut butter, the juice of one lemon and one tablespoon olive oil. Puree the ingredients and check for flavour and texture. If it’s too thick add a bit of water. Serve with carrots, radishes, cucumbers, peppers and warm flatbread. Hummus also makes for a scrumptious spread on sandwiches, wraps or crackers.

Any nut butter paired with apple slices is a tasty and satisfying treat. Try nut butters on crackers, whole-wheat English muffins or bagels. Nut butters can also be used in smoothies, as a binder for homemade granola bars, in sauces and dressings as well as an added protein kick in soups.

There’s a reason we’re seeing all-day breakfasts out there and much of that centres on eggs as the perfect snack. Appealing as a vegetarian protein, eggs are low in calories yet a high-energy choice. Simmer half a dozen on Sunday and you’ll have a healthy snack waiting for you each day. Just add salt and pepper and maybe a bit of Frank’s RedHot sauce.

Drinkable snacks are a wonderful option for busy bees who want convenience, portability and healthy nourishment. These high-protein, lower-in-sugar drinks often centre around some combination of yogurt, fruit, veggies, protein powders and grains. Call them smoothies, shakes, protein drinks, you name it, these are easy to make and an easy way to get your daily nutrients. Here’s a recipe for a quick and easy green smoothie: Mix one-quarter cup coconut milk, one cup of seedless green grapes, one cup pack baby spinach and half a cup of ice in your blender until smooth and frothy.