Nothing makes all my healthy-eating plans hit the wall faster than work. Between early hours, long commutes, hours of desk-jockeying and rushed lunches it’s a miracle I manage to think of eating better – before grabbing that bagel and running out the door, that is. One way I’ve been trying to remedy this is by packing healthier snacks so I have a better alternative right at hand. However, with limited energy to spare, snacks that are both healthy and super-easy to make need to be the backbone of my eating strategy.
Luckily, there are healthy snacks that you can make that are; healthy, easy, and can be made in bulk. Below are my three favorites:
WARNING: I’ve never been a “recipe” kind of gal, so I tend to eyeball my measurements, taste as I go and adjust. The key with doing that is to start with a small amount of your seasoning, taste and add from there – remember, it’s easy to add more than to try to dilute too much flavor.
Hummus. As a gal who loves her creamy textures and flavors (hello gooey cheese and alfredo sauces!), I was thrilled to find that thick, creamy hummus hit those same flavor notes with a decidedly better nutritional punch. Now, I have hummus with tons of foods – as a side for broiled fish, a dip for veggies, a spread, even on the occasional hotdog. Sure, you can buy it, but it’s very easy to make at home where you can really play around with flavors – and eat easy knowing exactly what’s in your food. Here’s how I make hummus at home:
- 1 can of chickpeas/ garbanzo beans (if you don’t like these particular kinds of beans, try switching it up with butter beans or white cannelloni beans)
- Olive oil (or grapeseed oil, or try sesame seed oil for additional flavor)
- Tahini or sesame seeds (tahini is just a paste made from ground sesame seeds – if you can’t find it at your local store, just get the seeds)
- Seasonings (garlic, salt, black or red pepper….I like a little ground, dried onion myself)
- And most importantly….a food processor or blender (preferably with interchangeable blades. I’ll explain why in a minute.)
First up, crack open that can, drain and rinse the beans. You can save a little of the liquid if you like to add later, but the liquid in canned foods often has excess sodium and other preserving agents, so I prefer to clean the beans.
If you couldn’t find sesame seed paste, use your processor/blender with a grinder blade (usually used to grind coffee beans) to grind the sesame seeds into a fine powder. If you want a little extra flavor, toast the seeds in a bit of olive oil until they’re mostly a golden brown – or get really experimental and try tracking down black sesame seeds (your local Asian market is a good bet). Add more olive oil and you’ve just made yourself some tahini. I’ve also just added the dry powder to the hummus with good results.
Put your beans into your processor/blender with a rough combo of 1/3 cup olive oil. Pulse until you have a creamy mixture. If your mixture is not creamy, you can add more oil, add water or add the leftover liquid from the can. You’re aiming for a thick, creamy result.
Taste. If you like it as is, you’re done! If not, start adding those seasonings. Start with the sesame seeds, going about a teaspoon at a time. Then add salt, a pinch at a time. Red pepper flakes add a little heat, while roasted garlic will give a nice, mellow flavor that compliments hummus perfectly. A few drops of sesame oil can also add extra flavor. They key is using ingredients that you will enjoy. Store in the fridge when finished.
Olive Tapanade. Got a salt craving? If you want a lip-puckering punch of flavor, this olive paste is super-easy, super-quick and super-delicious. It’s a great spread on crackers, on baby carrots or as a garnish on salads.
- Green olives (I love using the ones that come stuffed with pimento, but pick whichever you like), pitted
- Canned black olives, pitted
- Greek/Kalamata olive, pitted
- Olive oil
- Extras, depending on taste (I add capers, but experiment with red pepper, herbs, and spices)
- The good ole food processor
If you’ve found olives too briny to eat, then the key to this is to soak your olives in water first and rinse them well before adding them to the processor. Don’t worry – you won’t lose any flavor. Dump all your olives, a dash of your extras (remember – start with a pinch!) and a tablespoon of olive oil into the processor and pulse until you get a chunky, thick paste. Guess what? You’re finished! Store this in the fridge.
Iced Tea. Don’t underestimate your liquids, especially during the summer.While teas are popping up everywhere now, many brands pack way more sugar than a body needs – and the healthful benefits of tea can decrease the longer it sits on the shelf. Get the best from your tea by making it yourself – and it’s a process that you can easily do in the midst of your other duties (I actually have a batch of lemongrass and basil brewing as I type this).
- Pitcher (glass is best, but use what you have)
- Tea (any tea! Green and white, with their light flavors, are great for the summer, but use herbs or any other tea you have)
- Sweetener (If you’re trying to avoid refined sugar think about using Stevia, Monkfruit, raw honey or agave)
Fill a big pot with water and heat to almost boiling (you know that point when you see little bubbles form on the bottom? That’s the tea-making sweet spot). Add tea (tea bags make this way easier, but loose leaf tea is great too – just make sure you have some way to strain out the leaves). Not sure how much tea to add? In this instance, it pays to be heavy-handed. Remember that you’ll be adding ice, which will dilute the flavor, so add a little more than you think you’ll need. Me? I like my tea strong, so I usually add 3-5 tea bags.
If you have chores to do, turn off the heat and let the tea steep. Check the suggested steeping times on your particular tea’s box to see when it should be done. Try not to leave it for hours on end – you’ll just end up with a bitter brew.
Bonus tip: Add sweetener when the water is still hot and stir so it completely dissolves. If you add it later, when the brew is cool, chances are that all that sweet flavor will sink right to the bottom.
When your tea is finished, pour it into the pitcher and stick in the fridge. I usually don’t add ice, so as to not dilute the brew, but ice is a great way to tone down a too-strong flavor and help it chill faster.
These are all simple, healthy foods that can be whipped up in less than an hour, made in bulk and, won’t require the use of a hot oven (a big bonus for the summer months!). What are your favorite healthy snacks?I’d love to hear about them in the comments.