4 Health Snacks Your Body Needs and Your Taste Buds Will Love
Health snacks that are tasty but not loaded with sugar are fairly hard to come by. Packaged varieties might have convenience going for them, but their hidden glucose levels and processed ingredients are two bad habits you need to give up to be healthy. So how do you strike a balance and find nutrient-dense health snacks that are good for you too?
We tapped the expertise of Kimberly Parsons, author of The Yoga Kitchen, which features over 100 vegetarian and gluten-free recipes that not only improve your health but also build your inner core, increase your energy, and support your spiritual development—these tasty on-the-go snacks are busy-girl essentials too. Ahead Parsons shares four exclusive snack recipes from the book along with a brief explanation on the health benefits. Happy cooking!
Lemon Verbena Bliss Balls
"The third chapter in the book is called 'Nurture,' and it's based on the heart chakra, anahata, where we begin to discover our true selves," says Parsons. "Since the heart chakra is the midway point, balance becomes an essential principle; both outer balance and inner balance are key. Humankind can easily lose its balance between the mind and body in the fast-paced world of today, and the 'Nurture' chapter seeks to reunite these elements. The recipes in this chapter, like the bliss balls, are all nutrient-dense and filled with phytonutrients that are truly devoted to healing and restoring, allowing nurture to take place on all levels."
250 g (9 oz. or 1 1/2 cups) raw macadamia nuts or cashews
20 lemon verbena leaves or lemon verbena tea bags
Filtered hot water, to soak
115 g (4 oz. or 1 1/4 cups) desiccated (dry unsweetened) coconut plus 2 tbsp. extra, for coating
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
60 ml (2 fl. oz. or 1/4 cup) light coconut nectar
2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of Himalayan sea salt
Place the macadamia nuts and lemon verbena leaves or tea bags into a medium bowl. Pour enough of the hot filtered water to cover and allow to soak for 2 hours. Remove the lemon verbena from the bowl and drain the macadamia nuts through a colander.
Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until a smooth dough forms. Stop and scrape down the sides as necessary. Remove from the food processor and place into a medium bowl. Leave to cool and then chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Once chilled, roll a walnut-size portion of the mixture in the palm of your hand. Place the ball into a plastic lock seal bag with the 2 extra tablespoons of desiccated coconut, and then roll the remaining mixture into balls. Place in the bag and then shake until the balls are coated with coconut. Store in the bag or an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Cinnamon Yoghurt Bark With Strawberries
"The types of bacteria in our intestines have a profound effect on our health," says Parsons. "Good bacteria are anti-inflammatory, whereas bad bacteria secrete highly inflammatory substances into the gut. The word probiotic literally means to promote life. The term is used to describe living microorganisms in the intestines that have positive health effects. Along with regularly eating fermented foods, consuming unflavored, sugar-free, natural yogurt is an excellent way to increase your healthy bacteria. Flavor the yogurt in any way you want. I've roasted the strawberries, which increases their flavor, while the addition of balsamic vinegar diffuses their sweetness."
Ingredients for the yogurt bark:
500 g (1 lb. 2 oz. or 2 1/4 cups) full-fat natural yogurt or Greek yogurt
4 tbsp. pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
200 g (7 oz. or 2 1/3 cups) fresh blueberries, or blackberries if blueberries are unavailable, stray stems removed
25 g (1 oz. or 1/6 cup) cacao nibs
50 g (2 oz. or 1/3 cup) raw pistachios, roughly chopped, plus a few extra for scattering over serving plates
Ingredients for the roasted strawberries:
500 g (1 lb. 2 oz. or 3 1/3 cups) fresh strawberries, washed and quartered
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. filtered water
Line a 20-by-20-centimeter (8-by-8-inch) shallow baking tin (pan) with baking paper (parchment paper). In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. Gently stir in the blueberries and cacao nibs and mix until everything is combined. Pour the mixture into the tin, spreading it out evenly, making sure the blueberries are evenly distributed. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios over the yogurt surface. Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and place in the freezer overnight or until required.
On the day of serving (you still need to be working ahead of time as the mixture needs time to cool), preheat the oven to 160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Place the strawberries in a glass baking dish and spread out in an even layer. In a small bowl, stir the vanilla, balsamic vinegar, and water together. Pour this mixture over the strawberries and place in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the strawberries are tender and cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Drain the liquid from the strawberries into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil until reduced to a thickened sauce. Leave to cool.
When ready to serve, spread a little of the strawberry sauce over 6 serving plates and add the roasted strawberries with the yogurt bark. Scatter a few chopped pistachios over the top and serve immediately.
Chewy Tahini and Almond Cookies
"These cookies hit the post-exercise spot every time!" says Parsons. "They take no time to make and can be kept for up to a week without drying out. The moment I unlocked the versatility of tahini and its smooth texture, these cookies were born. Tahini comes in both light and dark varieties and is packed with calcium, which supports bone structure and strength."
220 g (8 oz. or 2 cups) ground almonds
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
200 g (7 oz. or generous 1/2 cup) raw honey or coconut nectar
200 g (7 oz. or 3/4 cup) tahini paste
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
Raw pistachios, roughly chopped, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 170°C fan/375°F/Gas 5. Line 2 baking trays (baking sheets) with baking paper (parchment paper) or patisserie mats.
Place the ground almonds, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, mix together the honey, tahini, and vanilla. Place the saucepan over a medium-low heat and stir until combined and the mixture has begun to thin a little.
Pour the contents of the saucepan into the dry ingredients and stir together to form a dough. The dough should come together in your hands quite easily and feel quite warm and soft. Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes to cool and firm slightly.
Roll the dough into 2 1/2–centimeter (1-inch) balls and then place them at 5-centimeter (2-inch) intervals on the prepared baking trays as the cookies will spread during baking.
Using a fork, gently flatten the balls, and then add a few roughly chopped pistachios to the center of each.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned ’round the edges. The cookies should feel soft while warm but will harden. Wait until the cookies have completely cooled before removing from the baking trays. Store in an airtight container.
Za'atar Green Cabbage Crisps
"Crisps (chips) are going through a renaissance as they've become a popular makeover dish for health-conscious foodies everywhere," says Parsons. "No root vegetable or kale leaf has been left unshaved in this race, but in this recipe, I have decided to use another one of the brassica family vegetables and offer a different kind of crisp. I love the texture of the Savoy cabbage because the surface of the leaves aren't smooth, [so] the crisps have an added crunch when they're cooked. If you don't want to spice with za'atar, which you can make yourself or buy in all good supermarkets, you could simply sprinkle a little paprika or sumac and dried oregano over the top before baking."
Ingredients for crisps:
4 to 5 outer leaves of Savoy cabbage
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp. za'atar spice and herb mix (see below)
1/2 tsp. Himalayan salt
Ingredients for za'atar:
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 tsp. dried oregano)
1 tbsp. fresh marjoram, finely chopped (or 1 tsp. dried marjoram)
1 tbsp. sumac
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. toasted fennel seeds
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
Directions for crisps:
Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/430°F/Gas 7. Using a sharp knife, slice the stem out of each leaf. Tear the cabbage into haphazard-shaped 5-centimeter (2-inch) bite-size pieces and add to a colander. Wash the leaves, drain, and then dry thoroughly using a salad spinner or clean tea towel (dish towel).
Place the dry, torn leaves into a medium mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and sprinkle with the za'atar and salt while tossing the cabbage to get an even coating of oil and spice. Line 2 baking trays (baking sheets) with baking paper (parchment paper). Place or spread out on the prepared baking trays and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
Check the crisps every 5 minutes to ensure they are baking evenly, giving them a slight toss together or turning each crisp over. You may need to remove some crisps from the oven earlier if they are not baking evenly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve once cooled or store in an airtight container.
Directions for za'atar:
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6. If using fresh herbs, place the thyme and marjoram leaves on a baking tray (baking sheet) and place in the oven for 10 minutes.
Use a mortar and pestle to grind the oregano and marjoram leaves finely. Remove any “woody” pieces. Now add the sumac, cumin, fennel and sesame seeds, sea salt, and black pepper and give another quick crush to combine. Set aside in a small bowl.
For more healthy snack recipes, shop Parson's new book, The Yoga Kitchen, below: