As registered dietitians, one of our most important goals is to help people to get more nutrients from food to help them achieve optimal health. We encourage our clients to stay away from processed snacks, sugary sweets, hydrogenated fats and other foods that do more harm than good. Yet even when they do their best to follow these guidelines, many people still purchase snack foods they perceive to be healthy (but really aren’t). You can avoid this common pitfall by making these four popular snacks at home, which are not only more nutritious, but also a lot more economical.
For years, smoothies have been one of the hottest trends around and a favorite among our clients. While they’re a great way to consume more produce and to ramp up your intake of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and even protein, purchasing pre-made or custom-made smoothies typically mean consuming a lot of excess sugar and calories. Sugary syrups, juices, calorie-packed protein powders and other fillers are often added. In addition, although fruit is healthy, different types of fruit in a single smoothie can significantly increase the calorie count. We recently discovered a client’s “light” and refreshing afternoon smoothie clocked in at nearly 1,000 calories!
Additionally, fruit-based smoothies often lack protein to stabilize blood sugar and stave off hunger. Make your smoothies at home with organic ingredients and it will likely cost a fraction of your store-bought version.
Here are a few to try that combine protein (unless otherwise noted) and fiber for satiety, while keeping calories in check:
Kale Recharge Smoothie (58 calories, 2 grams of protein) This vegan smoothie is a delicious way to get your greens. Made with kale, spinach, carrots and ginger, it floods your body with phytonutrients to fight disease. Because this smoothie contains just 58 calories and is made from all fruits and vegetables, be sure team it up with a source of protein like nonfat Greek yogurt if you’ll need it to hold you over for more than an hour.
Blueberry Protein Smoothie (224 calories, 20 grams of protein) Sweet and refreshing with a slight hint of creamy almond butter, this protein-packed smoothie is satisfying and low in calories.
Creamy Banana Avocado Smoothie (187 calories, 11 grams protein) Featuring Greek yogurt, avocado, green tea and chia seeds, this smoothie has 6 grams of fiber and is rich in calcium, potent anti-inflammatory compounds and good-for-you fat.
Apple, Flax and Pomegranate Smoothie (295 calories, 15 g protein, 8 g fiber) Made with Greek yogurt, cinnamon and flax seed, this rich, creamy and slightly sweet smoothie can serve as a mini-meal and tide you over if you won’t be having your next meal for several hours.
Walk into nearly any health food store and you can’t miss the large “healthy” cookies at the counter or on the main store shelves. Clever packaging announces that the cookies are organic, gluten-free, vegan or free of hydrogenated oils, but a quick look at the ingredient labels and it’s clear that most are loaded with calories, fat, salt or sugar.
This five-minute cookie recipe with no added sugar is a much better option (and makes four cookies, so you have some to share). In a bowl, mash an overripe banana, mix in one tablespoon of peanut butter, three tablespoons of oats and top with a tablespoon of chocolate chips. Scoop out four 2-1/2 tablespoons of the mixture and place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave your four cookies for four minutes. Depending on your microwave, you may need to add cooking time in 30-second increments. With just four simple, healthy ingredients, you’ll have warm and chewy cookies with about half the calories of traditional vegan cookies.
While some delicious store-bought kale chips contain the nutrients and fiber you’d find in fresh kale, they also have a lot of added fat and salt, turning a health-promoting veggie into something that can contribute to weight gain and high blood pressure. An ounce of kale has 14 calories and is virtually fat and sodium free, but most store-bought veggie chips are expensive and contain about 130 to 150 calories, 10 or more grams of fat, and 200 mg sodium.
Try these homemade kale chips instead: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Break (or cut with kitchen scissors) kale leaves into pieces about 2-inches larger than potato chips. Spritz kale lightly with oil, sprinkle with cayenne or garlic and bake on baking sheet for about 15 minutes.
Here are some other veggie trips worth making at home:
This crunchy, fiber-packed, antioxidant-rich snack is a favorite snack for many people and, with only 100 calories for three cups, it’s a popular choice of those who watch what they eat. Store-bought microwave popcorn, however, exposes you to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a suspected carcinogen, as well as a dose of added fats and preservatives. You’ll also likely get a hefty amount of salt, and when it comes to salt, we all get too much of it, which contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease.
The fix? Use an air-popper or put kernels in a paper bag in the microwave to create a fat-free version that is free of preservatives, PFOA and added fats. For a flavor boost, skip the butter and salt and instead sprinkle your popcorn with a dash of cayenne, a teaspoon of parmesan or with cinnamon, which has potent antioxidant properties and has been shown to help regulate blood sugar.