by Judith Fertig
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 nutrition 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.” Nor does it take hours to make.
“I pick one day a week to do meal prep,” she explains. “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 food, 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 admits. 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: