FAVORITE HEALTHY SNACKS

People that know me know I LOVE snacks. While I can certainly appreciate the beauty of classic potato chips or some gourmet cheese (or sometimes both), the majority of the time I try to grab something healthier. In my mind, the ideal snack gives you both protein and carbs. I also prefer it to have either fiber or a healthy fat, to help you feel satisfied. Lastly, it’s important that you like the taste! That might sound silly, but if I don’t truly enjoy eating something, then it doesn’t satisfy me. For example, I’ve never been a big fan of rice cakes, so you won’t find those on this list. Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite go-to snacks:

Brami snacks:

These are pickled lupini beans, which is something I’d never heard of until I saw these snacks on the shelves of a CIBO Express Gourmet Market at LaGuardia. They basically look like giant lima beans, with a slightly tangy and salty flavor from the pickling. The nutrition profile is spot on: 25 reasonably sized beans have 60 calories, 7g protein, 7g carbs, and 6g fiber. Talk about perfection. My favorite flavor is garlic and herb, but they’re all worth a try.

Flavors: Sea Salt, Chili Lime, Garlic and Herb, Balsamic and Herb, Hot Pepper

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Roasted chickpeas:

If my love for chickpeas isn’t obvious enough from my food photos, then it certainly is now. These are a great snack because they have the crunch of a chip or cracker, but provide more protein and fiber. There’s salt (100-260 mg per serving), but not so much that they’ll leave you feeling fluid overloaded later. My favorite flavor is sea salt (am I boring?), but there are several others to choose from. One ¼ cup serving provides 130 calories, 6g protein, and 6g fiber. Last but not least, these babies are great for traveling or keeping at your desk because they don’t need to be refrigerated.

Suggested brands: Biena FoodsWatUSee foods

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Popcorn:

This snack is a classic. Movie theatre popcorn gave it a bad name because of the gobs of salt and butter, but there are lots of great brands out there. Look for those with less than 65 calories per cup. Bonus points if it’s made with ingredients you can pronounce, like spices and real cheese (none of the fake stuff!). Popcorn has a good amount of fiber, usually about 5g per serving, which helps keep you full. Because it’s light and fluffy, a serving size of popcorn tends to be larger than many other foods, which may make it more difficult to overeat.

Suggested brands: Skinny PopBoom Chicka PopIndiana Popcorn

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Toast:

I don’t mean your grandma’s plain old boring toast. Load it up with nut butter, vegan cream cheese (hi Kite Hill chive), hummus, or mashed avocado to keep things interesting. Make sure to choose a whole grain bread. Some of my favorites include Trader Joe’s soft multigrain rustic bread or Food 4 Life Baking Ezekiel bread.

Photo: avocado toast from Bluestone Lane in NYC

Photo: avocado toast from Bluestone Lane in NYC

 

Greek yogurt or skyr:

My love for Siggi’s runs deep, but I’m actually not totally brand loyal. ChobaniDannonIcelandic Provisions, and several other brands make great high protein yogurt. These have a great protein:carb ratio to help keep you satisfied. If you don’t feel like a yogurt would fill you up alone, try adding a half cup of fresh fruit. This will only add about 40 calories but will up the fiber content and add some sweetness. Another great (and pre-mixed!) option is Muunacottage cheese. I just discovered these a few weeks ago thanks to a fellow RD pal and I’m really into them.

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Hummus with a cracker/veggie/chip combo:

As much as I love chips, I find they’re easy to overeat. The serving size is often deceptively small, and if I don’t eat slowly then I tend to go overboard. That’s why I find it helpful to dip both vegetables (low calorie + fiber) and one serving of chips/crackers (carby salty goodness) into a few tablespoons of hummus. Whole grain chips or crackers are your best options because they have more protein, fiber, and micronutrients. These combined with fresh vegetables and creamy hummus make for a satisfying snack.

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REVIEW OF BLUE APRON MEAL DELIVERY KIT

I decided to give Blue Apron because my boyfriend and I like to cook and had heard a lot of good things about these kits. You pick the menu items ahead of time, and they deliver a box with all the ingredients you'll need packed in dry ice. The package was really exciting to open! My inner hippie got a little anxiety when I thought about all the potential waste from packaging, but it was actually a lot less than I thought it would be. It was also so nice to have all your week’s groceries just dropped off at your door, even for someone who kind of loves grocery shopping. The directions are very easy to follow and go in a logical sequence. Now let’s break down the meals:

 

Monday: Paneer and Lentil Masala

I was a little dismayed when I saw the nutrition information—800 calories per serving seemed crazy! I mentally went through ways to dietitian-ize it, such as using less oil when cooking and swapping the heavy cream for unsweetened soy milk, but ultimately I decided to just stick with the recipe. I’m actually glad I did, because the cream made a big taste difference (in a good way). The nutrition information also didn’t seem quite so bad when I saw the portion sizes. To me, this meal could comfortably fill 3 people. Everyone is different though, so others may feel it could feed 4 while some may agree with the 2 servings per package. Taste-wise, I really enjoyed this dish and was glad for the opportunity to cook with some spices and ingredients I don’t generally use. My primary criticism is that I would have liked for there to be more vegetables. We had some leftovers so I put them in a Tupperware and added some shredded carrots to get an extra serving of veggies in, which was really tasty!

Overall consensus—would definitely make this recipe again, but would add some shredded carrots and diced tomatoes when cooking, and would divide into 3-4 servings.

Paneer and Lentil Masala

Paneer and Lentil Masala

 

Tuesday: Korean Beef Steam Buns

First impression before even making them was, “wow, these things aren’t the healthiest”. But then I remembered that we didn’t pick this one because of the nutrition—we picked it because we loved the pork buns we had last month at a Thai restaurant in the village and thought it would be fun to recreate them at home! That being said, I still went through a mental checklist of what vegetables we had in the fridge and tried to think of ways to incorporate them. Knowing that we had red cabbage and carrots, I googled “Asian cabbage carrot slaw” and tons of results came up. I was happy to know we’d have some low-cal veggies on the side of this indulgent dish. The buns themselves were delicious and fluffy, which is exactly what we wanted. The sweet potato tempura was a little difficult to execute so might not be great for a beginner chef.

Overall consensus—some things should be left to the professionals. The buns tasted good, but they weren’t nearly as good as the ones we had from a restaurant. 

Korean Beef Steam Buns with Sweet Potato Tempura

Korean Beef Steam Buns with Sweet Potato Tempura

Wednesday: Barramundi and Herbed Couscous

This was definitely my favorite meal of the three, but I may be a little biased with my love for fish. I had never heard of this fish before and was a little disappointed when I looked into it more to learn that it was farmed. This meal gets major points for the difficulty level (or lack thereof!). It was so easy and would be great for anyone who’s busy or who doesn’t have a lot of experience cooking. The honeynut squash are so cute! Plus you don’t have to peel them and they’re really easy to cut. The taste was a lot like acorn squash or butternut.

The fish portions were adequate for the recommended 2 servings, but we did have leftover squash and couscous, which I was able to repurpose into dinner the next night with chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, and extra spinach. Win-win!

Lastly (I’m starting to sound like a broken record here…) I’d add more vegetables if I made it in the future. Extra spinach in the couscous felt necessary to balance it out.

Overall consensus— this was a winner. I'd make this recipe again, but would add more vegetables. And I've already gone out to find honeynut squash!

Barramundi and Herbed Couscous with Honeynut Squash

Barramundi and Herbed Couscous with Honeynut Squash

Overall impression:

The biggest perk was the convenience. I didn’t feel that these meals were much healthier than getting take out, but they can definitely be veggied up a little if you have extra vegetables in your fridge. I’d recommend checking the ingredients list and the nutrition information before ordering so that you can make an educated decision. I did enjoy the taste of all of them, which is obviously very important! Not sure if I’d order again, but I am interested in trying some of the other meal delivery kits to see how they’d compare. They could be great for weeks when you’re coming back from traveling or have a lot going on and don’t have time to grocery shop.