This is my 100th blog post! I can't believe we've made it this far already!
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just stay healthy, if you’re following me, chances are that your goals include creating and maintaining a healthy body. What you eat plays quite a large role in that, so here I am to offer some suggestions.
(Fun fact: All of these snacks are vegan and gluten free! If that's your jam, great! If not, well, you won't even notice. I love me some gluten and these are still some of my favorite snacks.)
Popcorn has, like, no calories. Okay, not really, but since it’s so fluffy, as long as you don’t drown it in butter, it’s a pretty healthy snack. It even counts as a whole grain, and it’s a good snack if you’re a volume-eater like me.
I like to pop my own popcorn because it’s cheaper that way, and I can control how much oil and seasoning go on it. My favorite way to make popcorn is to add about a tablespoon of oil and four popcorn kernels to a large pot on medium-high. Put a lid on it. When those four kernels pop, pour in ¼ of a cup of kernels, put the lid back on the pot, and remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit off the heat for 30 seconds. After that, return it to the heat and shake the pot back and forth every few seconds until all of the popcorn has popped.
It sounds a little weird, but what you’re doing is bringing the oil up to the right temperature, then giving the kernels a chance to heat up most of the way without burning because they’re off the heat. Then when you return them to the stove, they’re almost hot enough to pop and should all pop quickly and evenly.
Pickles are also very, very low in calories. Most of the time, one pickle has only about five calories. They are high in salt, though, so be sure to drink plenty of water and don’t eat too many pickles. But when you’re looking for something to satisfy your need to nibble, pickles are great.
From what I’ve found, splurging to buy the slightly more expensive pickles is usually worth it. They’re way better than the yellowy pickles on the shelf in the store. Buy something from the refrigerated section. When you’ve eaten all of the pickles, you can even add cucumbers to the leftover brine to make more pickles! Making your own pickles from scratch is also quite easy and there are plenty of recipes online depending on what kind you prefer.
Here’s the thing: if you’re a snacker like me, the chances that you snack even when you aren’t hungry are pretty high. Whether you snack out of boredom, stress, or convenience, it might be time to consider replacing that bag of chips with a drink. You probably could also stand to drink more water. Thus, we find ourselves with the idea of replacing those snacks with a sippable drink.
Ideally, that drink isn’t something loaded with calories and sugar. Those milkshakes masquerading as coffee from Starbucks aren’t a good snack. Black coffee, or coffee with just a bit of milk and/or sugar is fine—although keep an eye on your caffeine consumption.
Lately, I’ve been in a lemon water mood. It’s more interesting than plain water and is better at satisfying that snacky craving. I love True Lemon lemonades* and lemon powder* for mixing up some lemon water in seconds. I don’t have time to deal with real lemons.
If you’d noticed the low-calorie theme that I had going on in the first few suggestions, nuts probably come as a huge surprise. But nuts are high in protein and healthy fats. They’re good for… pretty much everything, actually. If you’re going to eat something that’s calorie dense, opting for nuts over chips is a good move.
I’ve developed something of a sweet tooth over the last few years, but before that, I was always a crunchy, salty snacker. Chips were basically my favorite food. Now, when that crunchy, salty craving hits, I often go for nuts—plenty of crunch, plenty of salt (if you get the salted ones, obviously.)
Keep in mind that nuts are calorie dense. I recommend measuring them out beforehand so you don’t eat them by the handful from the container and end up eating 1000 calories of nuts—which is way easier than I’d like to admit.
5. Dark chocolate
This may not stand for everyone, but I know I’m not the only person who feels satiated after a bite or two of dark chocolate but could eat an entire bar of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is one of my go-to sweet snacks.
Sure, chocolate isn’t the healthiest thing you could eat, but as long as you get one that doesn’t have too much sugar, it’s not too bad. Dark chocolate has lots of antioxidants, and it’s much better than going for the box of cookies on the counter. I find that the higher the percentage of cocoa, the less chocolate I need to feel satisfied. Somewhere around 85% is usually good for me.
6. Homemade granola
If you believe the marketing, granola is a healthy snack. But the marketing is lying to you because that’s its job. If you actually read the nutrition label of most pre-made granolas and granola bars, those things are filled with sugar. Actually, a lot of what we eat is filled with sugar. It’s disgusting.
It also turns out that homemade granola is really easy to make. If you’re intimidated by cooking and want a real recipe, Google can provide plenty, but all you’ve got to do is mix all of your favorite granola-related things into a bowl of old-fashioned oats and bake the whole mess spread out on parchment paper at 350° for 30 minutes or so, stirring once or twice and keeping an eye on it at the end so it doesn’t burn.
I like to add flax seeds, chopped almonds, a bit of dark brown sugar, millet, cinnamon, and vanilla to my granola, but the options are endless. Making your own granola allows you to control the amount of sugar that goes into it, and with a prep time of about 5 minutes, why not?
Homemade granola pairs well with yogurt and fruit, eaten with milk as a cereal, or just straight out of the container, because, again, why not?
7. Roasted vegetables
Yes, I’m the kind of person who eats roasted vegetables as a snack. If this comes as a surprise to you, I suspect you’ve never had a properly roasted vegetable.
Pick your favorite vegetables—I love Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, but you could use broccoli, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, or any other vegetables that fair well when cooked. Don’t try to roast a cucumber.
Preheat your oven to 450°, and stick the a baking tray in the oven on the bottom rack to preheat along with it. Preheating your tray and roasting vegetables as close to the heat source as possible means extra flavor and crispy bits.
Cut ‘em small. Smaller vegetables cook quickly, which lets you use high heat and get lots of brown, roasty bits without leaving the inside still raw. Plus I don’t want to wait an hour for my vegetables.
Toss the vegetables in oil and coat them with seasonings. Lately I've been loving this cajun seasoning, and the umami seasoning blend from Trader Joe’s is great, but you’ve got a lot of freedom here. Garlic powder and smoked paprika are great together. Experiment until you find a combination that you like, and don’t forget the salt. Oh, and if you’re not sure how your vegetables are going to taste, taste one before they go in the oven! They’re vegetables. You can eat one raw to taste for seasoning.
When the oven is preheated, take the tray out (careful—it’s hot!) and pour the veggies on it. They’ll sizzle because the tray is hot. Put them in the oven for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetables, flipping them over half-way through.
(And if you're thinking, "Abby, this isn't quick. You said these foods would be fast!" Meal prep them! Then you've got easy snacks all week long! You can warm them in the microwave for a minute or so, or just eat them cold.)
Hummus is one of those things that’s worth making yourself. Homemade hummus is way better than the kind from a store, and it’s so easy to make, why not? Hummus has lots of protein, and it’s good for making vegetables taste better. I like to eat it on cucumbers.
I like this hummus recipe, except I double the cumin and triple the garlic. Actually, I don’t measure anything, but by my rough estimates, that’s what I do.
Hummus is versatile. You can add pretty much anything you want to it. Roasted garlic is one of my favorite things to throw in, and you can’t go wrong with sun-dried tomatoes. Versatile, high-protein, and a good way to make raw veggies more enjoyable? Yes, please.
I firmly believe that oatmeal is underrated. It’s cheap, filling, good for you, only takes a couple of minutes to make, and is super customizable.
My favorite oatmeal topping combination is banana, maple syrup, and vanilla soy milk. As long as you don’t go crazy with the maple syrup, you can easily make a big bowl of oatmeal for less than 300 calories, and you get protein, potassium, and fiber.
As yummy as those flavored oatmeal packets can be, they often contain quite a lot of sugar, so it’s best to make your own, which is usually cheaper anyway. Fruit makes a great oatmeal topper—I especially love dried apples, blueberries, and of course, bananas—but you could think outside the box with things like dried pineapple or blackberries. A tiny pinch of salt added to your oatmeal helps to bring out the sweetness in fruit, and spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger add even more flavor.
I’ve even heard of people making savory oatmeal and adding things like kale, beets, avocado, beans, and tempeh, and though I haven’t tried savory oatmeal myself, I am intrigued. If you try it out, let me know how it goes!
There you have it! Nine quick, easy, healthyish snacks for all of my fellow snackers out there. What are your go-to snacks? Spread the snack-love by leaving a comment below. :)