If eating healthy is one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2016, you don’t have to pass on the taste to satisfy your cravings. Here are a few yummy ideas, both sweet and salty, that will help you say no to the junk and feel better while doing it.
Wait…isn’t popcorn a big snacking no-no if you’re trying to eat healthy? Well, yes, if you dump tons of butter on it or make the microwaveable bagged kind that comes loaded with chemicals and grease. A time-tested recipe makes some honestly delicious popcorn, so you don’t have to worry about having an extra handful (or three). It’s simple to make, and all you need is an old-fashioned popcorn popper, or the newer air popper variety, bagged corn kernels, a bit of salt, and some olive oil. If you’re using the old-school type of popper, just add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, dump in enough kernels to cover the bottom, place the lid on, turn on the popper, and wait. The olive oil, which is super healthy on its own and in this case as alternative to butter, gives the popcorn a great flavor, and you can add a few dashes of salt once the corn is popped. If you’re using an air popper, no olive oil is needed- just add the kernels and some salt in the end. And if you can’t get your hands on either type of popper, most stores now offer bagged popcorn made with similar ingredients- lots of the good stuff, and little of the junk. Either way, this is one type of popcorn that lets you indulge while keeping your resolution!
You might have visions of gross, mushy, flavorless oats come to mind when this “snack” is mentioned, but fear not, because oatmeal can be a deliciously sweet treat if you dress it up the right way. There are plenty of types of oatmeal on the supermarket shelves, and some are pretty tasty, but beware of artificial sweeteners and ingredients. Start with plain oatmeal, either in packets or tub containers, and cook it according to the directions. Once you have yourself a bowl of hot oatmeal, the fun can begin. Think of it as an opportunity to go crazy with add-ins, just like you might at a frozen yogurt bar. Some of the best additions include raisins, berries, brown sugar, honey, and nuts. As long as you don’t add TONS of them, these ingredients are all pretty healthy and give the oatmeal a total kick of flavor. It’s a win-win, since oatmeal is already packed with fiber and other goodness. So, next time you find yourself reaching for the box of cookies, consider some amped up oatmeal to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Ok, ok…bear with us on this one. Yes, zucchini is a vegetable. Yes, zucchini might seem fairly boring on its own. But, we bet you’ll be amazed with how delicious zucchini chips taste and how little you’ll miss your regular potato chips once you’ve tried them. There are dozens of recipes for these guys online, but the basic idea is to slice up the zucchini into thin pieces (the “chips”), add some oil and bake them in the oven, then flavor them with a hint of salt or another spice that you enjoy. This way, you’ll get in a serving of veggies and the crunchy satisfaction of a chip.
Yogurt (with a bunch of yummy stuff added!)
In addition to being packed with protein, calcium, and other stuff that’s good for your body, yogurt can be very tasty. Just like with oatmeal, it’s all about the ingredients you add to it that bump it up a notch and take it from plain to delicious while keeping things healthy. While yogurt can never be a permanent substitute for ice cream, pudding, or a similar typically unhealthy snack, it can definitely fill you up and kick the craving. Some add-in options include fruit (cut up bananas, blueberries, or strawberries), granola, and honey. Stores already sell plenty of varieties that are flavored or contain similar ingredients, but they’re usually loaded with extra sugar. Think about buying plain regular or Greek style yogurt and throwing in your own fresh ingredients. That way, you can make the yogurt just the way you like it while keeping an eye on what’s going in.
Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography
This one probably seems like a no-brainer, since you always hear adults say, “be sure to eat your fruits and vegetables,” but it’s true…fruit really is a great snacking option. Because they are naturally sweet, fruits like apples, bananas, and grapes can give you the boost you need and serve as a great substitute for vending machine junk. Kiwi, pineapple, peaches, and pears are all tasty varieties, too. Throw different kinds together to make a fruit salad, if you like. Dried fruit is also good and easy to carry around for a quick, healthy snack in your backpack or while doing homework. If you want to step things up, a packet of trail mix, which usually combines dried fruit with nuts and chocolate, is an easy and relatively healthy choice.
**For a drink that beats soda hands down, think about mixing- literally- the last two snacks mentioned (yogurt and fruit) into a smoothie! Search online for some great recipes.**
While everyone can probably agree that nothing beats a piece of cake or bag of chips now and then, there are truly delicious healthy alternatives out there, and a healthy lifestyle can be easier than you think if you’re willing to make the right substitutions more often than not. The snacks above are a good start, and there are plenty more out there that will help you to fill up and feel good!