Craig Valency, CSCS
There’s nothing like grad school to throw off your blogging mojo! After a relaxing semester of neurobiology and advanced exercise physiology, I am finally ready to resume writing. The long wait is over. Easy Eats Part 3 is finally here.
We’ve already talked about some on the fly meals that don’t involve a telephone or a coupon (Part 2). You may still be looking for convenient snacks and appetizers. There are times when a celery stick or apple is just not enough. You need something a little more interesting, but you don’t want junk food, and you are not about to start cooking. Here’s a few of our favorites:
Marinated Spanish Olives
Christa and I shared a strong dislike for olives until we discovered this Spanish recipe for marinated olives from our friends Jo Marie and Ron. Garlic, rosemary, fennel, red wine vinegar, and other spices all work together to make these olives sing. Make a big batch and keep them on hand and you’ve got a delicious, healthy snack or quick appetizer for your next party.
Rather than the usual sauerkraut, pickles, or marinated spicy carrots in vinegar, opt for the fermented variety. If you are suffering from occasional bouts of diarrhea, constipation or bloating… this is a great way to get lots of good gut friendly probiotics. We get ours locally at the Little Italy farmer’s market from Happy Pantry. They have tons of different fermented veggies with unique flavor profiles. Christa’s favorite is Scarrots, spicy carrots with serrano peppers, ginger and red onion. My favorite is organic beetnik kraut, which is made with cabbage, beets, carrots, and caraway seeds.
Just check the ingredient list. It should read: meat (pork, or whatever) & spices. That’s it! Just peel the casing and slice off a few rounds when you’re hungry. It’s fermented and cured and doesn’t need refrigeration. Don’t eat it all in one place or you’ll be on a sodium overload, but it makes a good snack once in a while.
Being from Southern California, avocados are a staple. For a quick snack, cut an avocado in half, sprinkle some salt, pepper, and garlic powder on top, then drizzle some olive oil and vinegar to finish off your instant avocado salad. Guacamole is great for dipping or as a side for almost any dish. Try it with omelettes, steak, fish, or veggies. If you’ve got a bunch of ripe avocados, put them in a bowl with some salt, pepper, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro. Get a fork, mash it up, and go to town. If you want to add even more flavor and you’ve got the time, add some chopped red onions, jalapenos, and tomatoes. (Christa, however, feels very strongly that tomatoes do not belong in guacamole). You can always add your favorite ready-made fresh salsa as well.
Dried Organic Turkish Apricots (Trader Joe’s)
I know, dried fruit is just tree candy. But this particular variety has half the sugar of raisins and less sugar than most other dried fruit. Knowledge is power, or it can be used for self-deception. Because
you I know it’s lower in sugar, you might I sometimes end up eating twice as many. Any dried fruit can end up being a sugar bomb. So eat these in moderation, lest you make a real food rookie mistake. And if you’re trying to lose weight, just say no to dried fruits!
Almost everyone is finally on board with the fact that this much maligned saturated fat is actually good for you. It’s now available in nearly every store in every form. Let the marketing and overexposure begin! Our favorite new snack is dried coconut flakes. I don’t recommend them for little kids because they are hard and could be a choking hazard.
85% dark chocolate
My name is Craig Valency and I’m addicted to Chocolate. I don’t think there is a 12-step program yet, so I’m doing an accountability program with my wife – she hides the chocolate. There are more anti-oxidants in chocolate than broccoli. That’s good enough for me! Our favorite is Sweet Riot 85% dark chocolate. A few squares and I’m good. If I want to go crazy, I’ll throw in a few macadamia nuts or Brazil nuts.
Berries, Fresh and Frozen
Frozen berries are another staple that always lives in our freezer. These little, low sugar anti-oxidant nuggets make a great snack. You can thaw them overnight and eat them the next day in yogurt, or have them with some nuts. Use them in their frozen state and make a cool snack. Just take about a half-cup of frozen blueberries and raspberries and pour some coconut milk on top. Smash with a fork and blend it all together. OK, it’s not Ben & Jerry’s. But it does fill the cold, fruity, and creamy criteria. Freeze them in popsicle molds and it’s even more refreshing. If you want to zest a lemon or add vanilla extract, go to town. If you can find the fresh variety, keep those on hand, washed in a bowl in the fridge. If dairy doesn’t bother you and you have some heavy whipping cream on hand, just whip, add some vanilla, and dip away! (no sugar or artificial sweetener needed).
Always keep a pack of frozen organic veggies on hand. They are pre-cut, pre-washed, and ready to go. The freezing process can actually preserve nutrients better than fresh veggies that have been shipped a long distance and left on a shelf. It takes no time at all to steam them. Just make sure you’re not getting a bag of corn and beans. Instead, go for nutrient density with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Brussells sprouts, and other cruciferous veggies.
There’s beef, bison, salmon, and turkey jerky just to name a few. These protein power snacks travel well. They can take a beating (think shoe leather) and don’t need a refrigerator. The problem is that most commercial varieties are pretty heavy on the sugar and gluten (soy sauce). Trader Joes has a gluten-free organic beef jerky, but mail ordering (US wellness meats) or making it yourself are the best options.
Buy a bag of pre-washed, pre-cut organic kale from Trader Joes. Toss it in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Arrange on a baking sheet and put it in a 350° oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. Keep an eye on them or you’ll have kale charcoal briquets. Portion them into bags and you’ve got great lunch snacks for the kids. Put them in a gigantic party bowl and you’ve got a very nutrient dense snack for safe, mindless, reflexive eating during the season finale of Revenge.
High Energy Trail Mix
I’m a trainer, so naturally, you would expect to see me munching on an energy/ protein bar or downing a green swamp water smoothie two to three times a day. And indeed, that’s what I did up until a year ago when I decided that processed food was mostly out (chocolate does not count). Those bars and drinks were handy, but here is the real food solution: just take bits of real food, mix them up, portion in bags and you’re all set. Chop some Turkish apricots (half the sugar content of raisins) add some macadamia nuts (low in omega 6 and high in monounsaturated fats = low inflammatory). Throw in some coconut flakes (high energy) and break up some 85% dark chocolate (yum factor). If you are not planning on a long hike, try fresh berries instead of dried fruit.
Real Food: Really Easy!
Eating real food doesn’t have to be a real pain. With a little pre-planning your meals can be low stress and healthful. You can enjoy snacks again, eat on the go, and always have a meal option that doesn’t involve the emergency pizza delivery order. What are some of your biggest challenges with eating real food? What are some of your favorite snacks? I’d love to hear any tips that have helped you keep it real.