roasted_chickpeas

5 delicious and wholesome snack ideas

Snack: (noun) small meal; (verb) to nibble

If, by definition, we are meant to only nibble on snacks rather than inhale them, and if snacks are indeed meant to be a small portion size rather than a meal size, then for our sustenance and sanity we may need to reconsider what we forage for between breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Sometimes you reach for snacks because you are bored rather than hungry, but most often it is when your blood sugar levels are plummeting and you feel foggy or irritable. If you were to examine what your body actually needs at this time — as opposed to what your mind, trained through habit, says you should eat — there are certain foods that serve you well. Healthy snacks create a steady release of energy and offer your brain and nervous system essential nutrients to sustain concentration and an upbeat mood.

Unfortunately, too many snacks contain cheap, damaged fats such as trans fats (trans fatty acids, or TFAs) that not only impede good neural function but interfere with the body’s ability to digest and utilise fats. Foods that tend to contain TFAs include crackers, biscuits, chips, cakes, cereals and margarines.

Our brains rely on good fats to work effectively. Studies indicate that the massive increase of TFAs in our diets over the past 20 years has been a major contributing factor in the rise of attention deficit disorder and other childhood behavioural problems. Furthermore, adult mood problems such as poor concentration, anxiety, depression and aggression can also be linked to TFAs.

We serve our minds and bodies well by eating snacks containing good fats or essential fatty acids (EFAs). These fats are found in many foods but particularly nuts, seeds, olives, coconuts, avocados, high-quality fish, dairy, sheep and goat products, and chia seeds. EFAs are extremely important for the health of our cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems.

You also need sustained energy from your snacks rather than a quick-fix sugar high, so snacks should also contain wholesome, organic carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables give us many benefits besides; blueberries, for example, are packed with nutrients that not only improve brain function but also protect delicate brain structures against oxidative damage. Nuts and seeds are also superfoods; just a handful a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills, and vitamin E, which helps to prevent memory deterioration.

High-quality foods nurture you in many ways and can easily be negotiated into a snack menu. However, sometimes our busy lifestyles lead to our kitchen pantries and bellies being filled with poor food choices. Every so often you need inspiration to stop, recalibrate and take charge of your diet and your health outcomes. Good health is secured through wholesome daily habits and, if your life becomes stressful, those good habits will ease the brain fog and boost your concentration and energy.

It’s also wise to incorporate plenty of variety in your snack choices. An apple a day may keep the doctor away but it also promotes boredom. We all love novelty and without it you may find yourself tempted to ditch your healthy items in favour of the bedazzling array of unhealthy snacks on offer in shops, food stands, vending machines and supermarkets. Health is a process, not a destination, and it happens through choice, not by chance.

Simple snack ideas

Whether you are an experienced cook or a beginner, whether you are tentatively embarking on healthier lifestyle habits or are already a health nut, it’s easy to create wholesome snacks. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Fresh, organic fruits served as whole pieces or as a fruit salad with yoghurt and nuts
  • Nut butters spread on large apple wedges or celery
  • Snack mixes made up of your favourite ingredients, eg organic dried fruits, nuts, seeds, celery pieces, blueberries, apple wedges and chocolate-covered goji berries
  • Toasted muesli and yoghurt served with berries and nuts
  • Raw organic vegetables such as cucumbers, celery sticks, green beans and carrots whole or cut into vegie sticks as a substitute for crackers with a homemade dip such as hummus (see recipe below)
  • Homemade chocolate mousse (see recipe below) mixed with blueberries
  • Homemade sweets made with wholesome ingredients, such as nut bars (see recipe below), slices, muffins, cakes and fruit and nut balls
  • Chocolate liquorice
  • Organic fruit bread or buns (see recipe below)
  • Boiled eggs
  • Organic popcorn
  • Oven-roasted chickpeas (see recipe below)

To add to all that, here are five wholesome snack recipes that will not only nurture your health but can lift your spirits and boost your mood.

L.A. Confidential nut bars

Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 15–20 mins
Makes: 10–12 bars

Most of us love something sweet now and then. This recipe is not only delicious but is made with such nutritious ingredients that eating it is a guilt-free pleasure.

A great energy-boosting snack ingredient we’ve used in this recipe is dark chocolate. An antioxidant powerhouse, dark chocolate is one of nature’s most concentrated sources of theobromine, a mild, natural stimulant that helps to keep us focused. It’s different from caffeine and does not strongly stimulate the central nervous system. It also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which releases endorphins, our natural feel-good chemicals, helping to lift our mood.

We also use agave syrup, a delicious, natural sweetener made from a succulent plant native to the desert regions of the Americas. The primary sugar in agave is fructose, which has a relatively low GI score of 42 (the glycaemic index, or GI, is a numerical system of measuring how much a given food raises your blood sugar). Agave syrup contains beneficial fibre and many trace nutrients, including calcium, iron, and vitamins B and C, and has no chemical additives or fillers.

Another ingredient we use is coconut oil, a healthy saturated fat that supports immune system function. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a proven antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal agent, and it is easily digested and absorbed. It is a safe oil to use for cooking because it has a high burning point and does not become damaged when heated to high temperatures.

Nut bar
2½ cups (approx. 425g) coarsely ground walnuts
2½ cups (approx. 150g) desiccated coconut
½ cup (125g) honey or agave syrup
¼ cup (approx. 60mL) melted coconut oil
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla essence 

Topping
½ cup (approx. 35g) desiccated or flaked coconut
¼ cup (approx. 30g) roughly chopped walnuts (substitute with other nuts if you prefer)

Chocolate glaze
½ cup (125g) honey or agave syrup
¼ cup (60mL) coconut oil
2 tbsp (40mL) unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup (approx. 160g) unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.

Line a rectangular baking pan or cake tin (approx. 21cm × 12cm × 4cm) with baking paper. (Tip: You can also use a round pie dish or several smaller baking dishes greased with coconut oil.)

Use a food processor to combine the nut bar ingredients and mix well. Press the mixture evenly into the baking pan.

Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes or until it is golden-brown and you can smell toasted coconut. Be careful not to burn it — you may need to cover the top of the pan with baking paper for the last 5 minutes.

While the nut bar is baking, toast the walnuts and coconut. Because the walnuts take a little longer to toast, place them in a non-stick frying pan first. Over medium heat, stir them constantly for 1–2 minutes (there is no need to add oil as the nuts have enough of their own). Now add the coconut and continue stirring for a further 2–3 minutes. Set aside.

When the nut bar is cooked, remove it from the oven and set aside to cool slightly in the pan. (Tip: Don’t allow to cool completely because, if the bar is warm, this will ensure the chocolate glaze melts well when you drizzle it on top.)

In a medium saucepan, combine the honey, coconut oil and coconut milk, and cook over medium heat. Stir continuously until the oil and honey have melted and the mixture is very warm but not boiling. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder, stirring until the mixture is well combined and silky-smooth.

Spread the warm chocolate glaze evenly over the warm bar. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut and walnuts. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until the chocolate sets.

When set, remove from the fridge and cut the bar into 4cm-squared pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Gold star hummus

Hummus is a creamy dip originating in the Middle East, made from pureed chickpeas. There’s no doubt that homemade hummus beats shop-bought varieties any day; it is fresh, bursting with nutrition and free of emulsifiers, colours and preservatives.

Hummus makes a wonderful condiment and a great snack served with crackers and vegie sticks. It is extremely versatile and is a great source of calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Kate’s fancy spins on this traditional recipe — using beetroot, spinach and sesame variations — makes dips even more fun for children. Have them help you make the dips — they’ll love the colours.

Traditional hummus
1 400g can of chickpeas, drained
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh herbs, such as coriander, parsley or basil (optional)
1 small clove garlic (optional)
½ tsp sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and well combined. (Tip: You can also blend for less time and leave the hummus a chunky consistency if you like.)

Variations

Pink hummus
To the traditional recipe, add:
¼–½ cup cooked beetroot
1 extra tbsp water
1 tsp honey, or to taste

Green hummus
To the traditional recipe, add:
1–2 cups fresh spinach
1 tsp honey, or to taste

Sesame hummus
To the traditional recipe, add:
1 tbsp sesame seeds for extra protein and calcium

Oven-roasted chickpeas

These tasty and easy-to-prepare snacks are a protein-packed alternative to chips. They can also be added to salads. Kids usually love them because they are crunchy and a little bit salty.

1 400g can chickpeas
1 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp sea salt, or to taste
¼ tsp pepper (optional)
¼ tsp cumin powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 200°C/390°F.

Drain the chickpeas in a colander. In a large bowl, lay a few sheets of paper towel on the bottom, then put the chickpeas in the bowl and roll them around on the towel to remove some of the moisture. This helps them cook and brown in the oven because, if there is too much liquid, they will simmer and won’t crisp up.

Place the coconut oil in a medium-sized baking pan and put in the oven for a few minutes to melt the oil.

When the oil has melted, add the chickpeas to the pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper and cumin powder. Stir well to coat the chickpeas.

Place the pan in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until golden brown and a bit crispy. Remove from the oven and cool before serving.

The chickpeas will keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 4–5 days.

Variation
For a sweeter version, you can also add 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar in the last 5 minutes of roasting. Just sprinkle over the chickpeas and place them back in the oven to finish cooking. (See Brainiac Banana Bread recipe for more information on coconut sugar.)

Brainiac banana bread

Prep time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 40–45 mins
Makes: 1 loaf/12 slices

This loaf is very versatile. It can be used for French toast or as a lunchbox or afternoon snack and it also toasts well. Containing both walnuts and blueberries, it is a wonderful way to assist brain function. You can also vary the recipe by adding a few pieces of dried mango or other dried fruits.

Please remember, this recipe is for banana bread — not banana cake — so it is nowhere near as sweet as cake. The sugar used in this recipe is coconut sugar, a great-tasting, mineral-rich, low-GI (35) cane sugar alternative (cane sugar has a GI of 68). It is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron, and also contains vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6. When compared to brown sugar, coconut sugar has twice the iron, four times the magnesium and over 10 times the amount of zinc. Coconut sugar is unfiltered, unbleached and preservative-free.

We have also used coconut flour, which is a great source of lauric acid (anti-fungal, anti-microbial) and is full of dietary fibre. Coconut flour has a sweet taste and it expands quite a lot when baking, so if you are using it as a substitute in other recipes, use less flour and a little more liquid.

1½ tbsp coconut oil (to grease pan)
½ cup (approx. 80g) coconut flour
1⅓ cup (approx. 200g) gluten-free self-raising flour
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup (approx. 120g) coconut sugar
½ cup (approx. 80g) raisins, sultanas or dried currants
½ cup (approx. 60g) pitted dates, finely chopped
¾ cup (approx. 120g) crushed walnuts
6 free-range eggs
¾ cup (185mL) rice milk
¾ cup (185mL) melted coconut oil
¼ cup honey
2 tsp vanilla essence
4 overripe bananas
1 cup blueberries, either fresh or frozen (optional)
¼ cup halved walnuts (to place on top of the bread)

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.

Grease a loaf tin or baking pan (19cm × 8.5cm) with a teaspoon of coconut oil and line with baking paper.

In a large bowl, sift the flours, salt and cinnamon. Add the coconut sugar, raisins (or sultanas or currants), dates and nuts, and mix well.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the rice milk, melted coconut oil, honey and vanilla essence. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, mash the bananas and then fold them into the cake mixture. The consistency should be quite wet and just runny enough to be poured from the bowl into the cake tin; if it looks too dry, add more rice milk.

Pour the mixture into the tin and then gently fold in the blueberries, ensuring they don’t sink to the bottom of the mixture (this will prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the tin while cooking). Arrange the halved walnuts on top of the mixture.

Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until cooked in the middle. (Tip: To test, insert a skewer or knife into the middle; if it comes out clean, the bread is done.)

Note: No one likes dry banana bread. If you make the bread moist enough, it will taste great and store well. Sometimes it takes a little practice to master the correct consistency for a great loaf.

If you prefer sweeter bread, substitute the coconut sugar with dark-brown sugar, rapadura sugar or 2 tbsp of agave syrup.

Surprise chocolate mousse

The surprise here is that this mousse not only tastes amazing — trust us, you’ll love it! — but it is also packed with nutrients. Avocado provides good fats, while raw cacao contains high levels of antioxidants and magnesium, great for the heart and brain function and for helping to elevate mood. In fact, science now tells us that raw cacao is the most nutritionally complex food on the planet.

The other magical thing about this recipe is it’s extremely quick and easy to make.

2 ripe medium-sized avocadoes
½ cup agave or honey, to taste
½ cup raw, unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1–2 pinches sea salt, to taste 

Cut the avocadoes in half, remove the pits and scoop out the flesh. Place in a food processor (or small mixing bowl if using a hand blender).

Add all the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, creamy and well combined. Taste and adjust if need be.

Variations

If you prefer a sweeter mousse, add an additional ¼ cup of honey or agave syrup.

If you would prefer the mousse to have a thinner consistency, add additional coconut milk.

If you like a banana flavour, you can add ½ ripe banana, and for a delicious berry flavour, add 8–10 raspberries.

 

For more recipes, ideas or information on any of the ingredients, please visit www.welladjusted.me/breakfastsolutions, where you will find the authors’ latest eBooks, Breakfast Solutions and Lunch Solutions.

5 delicious and wholesome snack ideas

By: The WellBeing Team

These five deliciously wholesome snacks are packed full of goodness to boost your mood and tempo. Find out how to make them.


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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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