Happy fall everyone! Whether you are a student feeling the pressure of midterms, or you’re simply feeling a little sluggish as a result of the change in season, I feel you. The drop in temperature and decrease in daylight always slows my pace and productivity, especially when it comes to preparing food. Whether it is evolutionary or simply psychological, I also tend to be hungrier during the colder months – AKA, I want snacks, all. the. time. And trust me, I know the damage a few too many snacks can do. That’s why this week, I’m sharing some of my favorite snacks to get me through the midday slump, between meal pick-me-ups, and evening munchies.
If you know me, you know I could eat popcorn every damn day (and sometimes I do, and sometimes it’s my dinner). And no, we aren’t talking about microwave popcorn or the chemically-laden (but ultimately delicious) movie theatre popcorn – homemade is where it is at. Popcorn is a whole grain and provides a great dose of dietary fibre, a great reason to include it in your collection of go-to snacks. It’s also quick and easy to make: either use a hot-air popper, make it on the stovetop, or in a paper bag in the microwave!
There are tons of ways to make delicious, health-conscious popcorn for happy snacking. And no, that doesn’t have to include eating dry, hot-air popped popcorn (unless that’s your thing). My favorite topping combination is salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast (don’t knock it until you try it), courtesy of Lauren Toyota from Hot For Food. However, here a few other great flavor combinations to spice it up:
- Popcorn, Four Ways from Nutrition Stripped
- This great list (from Greatist, get it?) with 27 different flavor combinations for your popcorn,
- Or this variety of flavors, including a matcha green tea seasoning
It’s important to note that fats like oils, margarine, and butter add up fast (a tbsp of oil has roughly 140 calories, and a tbsp of margarine/butter has about 100), so be mindful of how much you are using. Fat is an important part of the diet (and aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins), but concentrated sources of fat such as oil, margarine, and butter are calorically-dense with little nutritional value themselves. Therefore, go light on the fat, heavy on the seasonings. Since popcorn itself is low in calories, especially for the volume you get to eat, keep your toppings in check to take full advantage of this healthy snack!
Peanut butter and… anything
Maybe I’m biased as a peanutbutter-aholic, but peanut butter (or any nut/seed butter) is not only tasty
and satisfying, but is filling thanks to slow-digesting, healthy fats and a small dose of protein. Peanut butter is also the ultimate versatile snack, since it can be paired with a wide variety of foods: crackers, whole-wheat bread or tortillas, vegetables like celery (ants on a log anyone?), apples… The list goes on.
As mentioned above, fats are a crucial dietary component, and shouldn’t be avoided! However, exercise portion control when consuming them – 2 tbsp of peanut butter has around 200 calories, and I know it’s way too easy to eat double that… been there, done that.
Not a nut butter person? Hummus and homemade guacamole are also nutritious and filling dips/spreads that provide satiating healthy fats to get you through the day.
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Yes, yes I know… Boring, typical, blah. But in all seriousness, we could all use an extra serving of fruits and vegetables – in 2016, only 30% of Canadian adults consumed 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables a day. There’s two notes I’d like to make about that statistic: first, this data is from the 2016 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), and is self-reported by Canadians. What does this mean? It means that Canadian’s provide this information in response to a questionnaire administered by the CIHI, Health Canada, and Statistics Canada. It is human nature to portray ourselves as happier/healthier/more successful/etc. than we actually are, especially when we are being assessed; therefore, it is commonly agreed upon that most Canadians would have overestimated their F+V consumption because of this social desirability bias, meaning less than 30% of Canadians actually consume 5 or more servings. My second point, is that Canada’s Food Guide actually recommends approximately 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables for Canadians 14 years and older. Therefore, even if Canadian’s weren’t over-estimating, those consuming 5 servings of F+V per day are still below the recommended levels.
Educational rant aside, fit fruits and vegetables into your diet in whatever way works best for you. What do I mean by that? Don’t force yourself to eat produce you HATE (unless you hate it all, then you have a learning curve to go through). Not only that, but also eat them in a way you find enjoyable: raw, cooked, with or without dip, etc. Any and all fruits and vegetables are fantastic for you, so as long as you have some variety if your diet, focus on eating the ones you genuinely enjoy.
Wait, did I say sweets? You bet I did. Everyone needs a sweet treat every once in a while… okay, maybe everyday. Sometimes, you need a truly indulgent treat, like a store-bought chocolate bar or Baked Expectations slice of cake. However, homemade options 90% of the time not only allow you to control the nutritional value, but can be just as satisfying.
What’s your indulgence of choice? Bite-sized balls such as energy balls, or these healthified donut holes (which I’ve tried and are MIND BLOWING), are great options that can be modified to what you have on hand and your personal flavor preferences. Homemade chocolate barks can easily be filled with tasty, healthy add-ins like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and shredded coconut: check out this beautiful recipe from Rachael’s Good Eats. She also has a wholesome cookie recipe that is blowing up the internet, and can be made into a cookie skillet or traditional cookies. My main point? Make something delicious, made with wholesome ingredients, and keep it on hand to keep your snacking urges in check.
I hope this gives you some ideas to prepare for your snacking needs, while still remaining conscious of the nutritional quality of the foods you consume. I am not a strict person when it comes to my diet, but I thought I would share a personal guideline I use for myself: 90% of the time, I save indulgent eating for when I’m socializing with friends or family. Not only does this save me money (buying groceries and cooking at home is much cheaper than eating out), but I also enjoy those indulgent foods more when I’m sharing them and my time with friends and family. Pizza, chips, and ice cream aren’t meant to be everyday foods – however in saying that, they aren’t never foods either. Enjoy the foods you love, but set aside appropriate times to enjoy them fully. Whether you follow a similar rule to me, or have special occasions (for example, pizza and movies on Sunday nights), use a system that provides your life balance, health, and mindfulness.
Talk soon friends!