If my youngest son had his way, he would snack all day long.
Regular meals are sometimes too boring for him. If they contain something he doesn’t like, such as eggs, noodles or fish, we can forget about ever seeing him at the dinner table.
So we always try to keep a generous amount of semi-healthy snacks in the house.
Healthy snacking during the day or evening provides an extra energy boost and spreads calories and carbohydrates over the course of the day.
According to Mercy Health network, snacking can also boost your brain power. Choose focus-boosting foods such as avocados, blueberries and dark chocolate. They can help you remain alert and engaged in the task at hand.
Snacking also has the potential to help you lose weight. When you snack during the day, it prevents you from getting ravenously hungry. You’re more likely to grab a healthier snack than whatever sugary treat is closest. You’re also less likely to overeat at your main meals, which saves calories, Mercy Health says.
Having a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack can also amp up your metabolism. When you’re eating every few hours, your body is regularly processing food. This keeps your metabolism busy burning calories all day. Snacking can also even out your blood sugar levels so you don’t experience the spikes of insulin.
Snacking can also be unhealthy if done to extreme amounts. Mercy Health says snacks should be kept to about 150 to 200 calories per mini-meal. Also, be sure you’re eating every three to five hours. Go for a snack between breakfast and lunch, and one between lunch and dinner.
If you start feeling hungry a few hours before bed, you might choose to have a snack then, too. Mercy Health suggests having a glass of water with each snack to keep yourself feeling full.
At my house it’s hard to monitor snacking while dealing with the kids’ after school and weekend activities. We try to put food, such as chips or popcorn, into a serving bowl rather than let people eat straight from the bag. This forces us to get up if we want more. Sometimes a show, such as my current favorite Ted Lasso, is too entertaining to want to get up for seconds.
We also keep plenty of fruit and vegetables at the ready with some accompanying sauces — apples with peanut butter, carrots with ranch dressing, etc.
Recently, we tried some Harvest Snaps from Calbee North America. Made with green peas, black beans or red lentils, these plant-based snack crisps come in a variety of flavors and are available in local grocery stores near the produce section.
As a side bonus, they’re certified gluten-free and free of artificial flavors, cholesterol and the common allergens, such as soy, nuts, peanuts, wheat and eggs.
My kids enjoy the Parmesan roasted garlic and caesar flavors. I have to admit, it’s hard eating just one serving of these crisps. They remind me of the old cheese puffs I had as a kid — light and airy and pretty good.
Below are a few healthy semi-snack recipes — Greek dip and chocolate truffles.
When making the truffles, remember that toasting brings out the flavor of the pecans. To toast pecans, sprinkle them into an ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until nuts are light brown.
Also when making the truffles, use a cookie dough or ice cream scoop to ensure uniformity. The chocolate will melt in your hand as you handle it, so I use an extra set of spoons or forks to help coat the truffle in the crushed cereal mixture. If you have plastic gloves, you can use those too. For an extra special touch of elegance, and to help keep them separated, place each truffle in a paper candy cup.
SKINNY GREEK LAYERED DIP
2 whole wheat pita (pocket) breads (6 inch)
1 container (7 or 8 oz.) plain hummus
1 container (6 oz.) fat-free Greek plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 medium Roma tomato, seeded, chopped
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
1/3 cup finely chopped seeded cucumber
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (2 oz.)
¼ cup chopped green onions (4 medium)
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ medium cucumber, sliced
1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut into strips
■ Heat oven to 350 degrees. Split each pita bread horizontally to make two rounds. Cut each round into six to eight wedges. Arrange wedges on an ungreased large cookie sheet, rough surface up. Spray with cooking spray (about 5 seconds).
■ Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Allow pita chips to cool.
■ While baking the chips, spread hummus on a shallow serving platter or in a pie plate. In a small bowl, mix lemon juice, yogurt, parsley and pepper. Spread evenly over hummus. Top with olives, chopped cucumber, tomato, feta cheese and onions. Drizzle with olive oil.
SKINNY DARK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
4 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped
4 oz. semisweet baking chocolate, chopped
½ cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur
½ cup crushed Chocolate Cheerios™ cereal
Finely chopped toasted pecans or flaked coconut
■ In a heavy saucepan, heat both chocolates over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat; stir in half-and-half and liqueur. Refrigerate about 2 hours, stirring once, until thick enough to hold a shape.
■ Combine cereal, pecans or flaked coconut on a sheet of waxed paper. Drop chocolate mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto coating; roll lightly to coat (truffles do not need to be perfectly round). Serve immediately or cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.