Fast Whole-Food MUNCHIES: Tasty Homemade Alternatives to Junk Food

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Planning ahead is an effective key to healthy eating and weight management. Having healthy snacks available, both savory and naturally sweet, helps us to conquer cravings and avoid a sugar rush—or slump. Between-meal nutritious and delicious snacks can be easy to make. Plus, unlike commercial foods, we know their ingredients.

Here, Natural Awakenings has tapped two plant-based whole foods experts and cookbook authors for their best snack recipes and tips.

“Healthy happens when we’re prepared,” says Elise Museles, of Washington, D.C., the mother of two sons who writes at KaleAndChocolate.com/blog and recently released Whole Food Energy: 200 All Natural Recipes to Help You Prepare, Refuel, and Recover. “Nutritious is delicious; healthy doesn’t have to be bland and boring.” she says. Nor does it take hours to make.

“I pick one day a week to do meal prep,” she says. “After a visit to our Sunday farmers’ market, I work in the kitchen for a few hours so I’m ready to go on Monday and for the rest of the week.” Whenever hunger threatens to derail her from a whole-foods, nutrient-dense diet, Museles is equipped with options like protein balls and carrot hummus. She’s also learned that having naturally sweet foods at hand helps divert cravings, realizing, “You just want a sweet thing more if you think you can’t have it. Plus, I think better when my blood sugar is stable.”

Museles combines naturally sweet dried fruits such as goji berries and tropical coconut to make a handy snack mix. “Like blending smoothies, this basic trail mix can have many variations,” she says.

She also suggests maintaining a well-stocked freezer. Museles freezes berries in season to pop in the blender for smoothies; pitted and peeled avocados to thaw and mash over gluten-free toast; and frozen banana slices to layer over nut butter.

Canadian Ella Leché, a mother of two daughters best known for her website PureElla.com/blog, is the new author of Cut the Sugar, You’re Sweet Enough cookbook. She came to a plant-based lifestyle in 2008 after a whole foods diet helped her overcome a chronic illness. Her blog documents her journey to wellness—one healthy change at a time.

Leché, a graphic designer and photographer in Mississauga, near Toronto, started an elimination diet four months after the birth of her first child, when she noticed puzzling symptoms. “I started to make small changes and slowly but surely, I began to recover,” she says. Today her diet is 90 percent vegan and gluten-free.

“I had a sweet tooth, but I didn’t have the balance thing figured out,” Leché says. Foregoing sugar was hard emotionally, even though her body had difficulties with sugar, which seemed correlated to frequent headaches and mood slumps. Slowly, she started emphasizing naturally sweet, pure foods like dates and fruits and found other ways to ease cravings. “Starting the day with a savory, healthy breakfast can cut sugar from your diet because the sweet taste on our tongue essentially sets the brain into craving sugar,” she says.

Leché enjoys involving her children in making snacks like healthy turnip or kale chips. When she gets a hankering for something sweet, she chooses her special cranberry and chocolate protein balls, sweetened with dried fruit and bolstered with almonds and walnuts. They take minutes to make and keep in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for up to three months.

Having easy-to-prepare, whole food snacks on hand keeps families happily snacking on quick bites and on track with healthy eating. “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” says Museles. “If you like recipes that are good for you, it’s a sustainable lifestyle.”

Judith Fertig is the author of the award-winning Back in the Swing Cookbook and blogs at AlfrescoFoodAndLifestyle.blogspot.com from Overland Park, Kansas.


Natural Quick Snack Recipes

NA_SA_06_16_Web_Page_07_Image_0007Raw Cheesy Kale Chips

Yields: 2 servings

Bunch of kale, stemmed
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours
½ red or orange bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled
¾ cup water
Juice of ½ lemon
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
½ tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make sure the kale leaves are thoroughly dry. Tear them into large pieces and place in a large bowl. Rinse and drain the cashews.
In a food processor, process the cashews, bell pepper, garlic, water, lemon juice, yeast flakes and salt until asmooth paste forms. Toss the kale leaves in the paste to fully coat, and then place them on the baking
sheet in a single layer; don’t overlap any. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the leaves and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Alternatively, dehydrate the kale leaves in a food dehydrator for 8 hours on a high setting (no need to turn them over).

Source: Cut the Sugar, You’re Sweet Enough, by Ella Leché

NA_SA_06_16_Web_Page_25_Image_0001Raw Cranberry- Chocolate Protein Balls

Yields: 20 servings

1½ cups raw walnuts

1 cup raw pecans

½ cup naturally sweetened dried cranberries

5 Medjool dates, pitted

¼ cup raw cacao powder

1 to 2 Tbsp chocolate or vanilla protein powder

1 to 2 tsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 drops liquid stevia

Process all of the ingredients in a food processor until a dough forms. Turn off the processor, remove the blade and roll a teaspoon of the dough into a ball using the palms of the hands. Repeat with all the dough. Enjoy between meals or after a workout. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to three months.

Source: Cut the Sugar, You’re Sweet Enough, by Ella Leché

Superfood Trail Mix

Yields: About 3 servings

This trail mix is loaded with antioxidants.

Pack up a mason jar and store it at the office or other work station or make individual serving packets to take along on hikes

. ½ cup sunflower seeds

1 cup walnuts

1 cup goji berries

½ cup coconut flakes

¼ cup cacao nibs

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and store in an airtight container.

Source: Whole Food Energy: 200 All Natural Recipes to Help You Prepare, Refuel, and Recover, by Elise Museles

NA_SA_06_16_Web_Page_25_Image_0003Frozen Banana Sandwiches with Almond Butter and Cacao Nibs

Yields: 2 servings

These take only about 5 minutes to make, and there are no rules when it comes to mixing and matching different nut butters and nutritional boosts.

1 banana

2 Tbsp almond butter

1 tsp cacao nibs

Peel, then cut 1 banana in half lengthwise and then slice it in half horizontally. Arrange the quarters on a small baking sheet or freezer-safe plate and spread equal amounts of nut butter on the banana slices. Top with the cacao nibs for added crunch (optional), and then place two banana slices together to make two “sandwiches”. Freeze at least 3 to 4 hours until solid. Then, remove from the tray and store in the freezer in containers (for up to a month), or wrap individually for a graband- go option.

Source: Whole Food Energy: 200 All Natural Recipes to Help You Prepare, Refuel, and Recover, by Elise Museles


 

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