We’re all clocking up overtime at work and skimping on sleep, but the long-term forecast is dire for our health. When we’re stressed out and tired, we find it harder to resist snacks, and most of the time they’re high in fats or sugar. While we can’t make you leave work earlier or tuck you into bed at a reasonable hour, we can provide you with healthy snack ideas to fuel your body and nourish your brain with the sustenance it needs to make it through each day.
To do this, we tapped Danny Seo, America’s leading green lifestyle guru and founder/editor in chief of Naturally, Danny Seo. Despite spending a lot of time in the kitchen, Seo admits he doesn’t love to cook, but he does love eating really delicious food. He also understands our busy lives (he has one too) and recognizes that healthy needs to be easy. Ahead, Seo shares his tips, supplements, and recipes for nutritious snacking on the go.
MYDOMAINE: What are your tips for keeping our health intact even when we’re busy?
DANNY SEO: We all know what the right and wrong choices are when we’re trying to be healthy on the go. Processed foods really never satisfy and make you feel (to be blunt) gross, but we’ve all been there.
Planning ahead is really the key. I invested in an inexpensive metal tiffin a few years ago and pack my lunch when I know I’ll be really busy at my magazine’s offices or at a shoot. I’ll put a massaged kale salad on top with tons of great seeds (sesame, hemp, and chia) and, on the bottom layer, a nice piece of fruit.
I also make sure I make my morning routine the absolute healthiest thing I can to kick-start my day. I usually start with a smoothie, like a simple pea protein, one with sugar-free almond milk and half of an avocado tossed in to make it really creamy and delicious. I also drink a giant glass of room-temperature filtered water and add two supplements: Nordic Naturals omega supplements (DHA for brain support) and a MegaFood multivitamin, which is made entirely from real food and only real food. Starting off smart helps set the tone for the rest of your day.
MD: What should we consider when choosing snacks?
DS: Real ingredients! Whole foods, nothing processed, because they’re naturally delicious and will actually fill you up and make you feel happy and satisfied, not guilty or bloated afterward.
Don’t forget the power of great seasonings like cinnamon, turmeric, and curry powders. They have an intense amount of flavor and have benefits like curbing cravings and helping with inflammatory issues. And this is one of those cases where you should always buy organic: Conventional dried spices and herbs are often irradiated, which makes them nutritionally dead. I use the brand Simply Organic because they don’t use irradiation; they use steam heat or intense freezing to purify their herbs and spices (and they are organic, too!).
Eat in season. I’d rather have the juiciest, freshest peach than a sugary snack.
MD: We all love to snack, but sometimes the choices we have available aren’t always good for us. What are your favorite guilt-free snacks?
DS: I don’t think people realize the high amount of awful fats and chemicals in store-bought microwave popcorn. Sure, it’s easy, but if you ever rip open one of those bags, it’s literally a brick of fat and corn kernels. Even though popcorn is easy to make on a stovetop, when you’re at the office and all you have is a microwave, you can still just toss kernels into a brown paper bag and microwave it. No fat. No chemicals. And it’s delicious popcorn.
Steamed cauliflower is great on its own, but it’s also really versatile in both sweet and savory snacks and dishes. I have a Bosch steam convection oven that lets me quickly steam cauliflower until it’s fork tender, but it keeps all the nutrients locked in. I toss it into a blender with coconut milk, brown rice syrup, and vanilla to make “ice cream.” You would not believe how creamy smooth and delicious this veggie-based dessert is.
I think fresh-squeezed juices are always a nice option, plus it feels invigorating when you drink them. You can either buy them or make them yourself and pour into a reusable glass bottle so you’re good to go.
For store-bought snacks, I like Louisville vegan jerky because it satisfies my savory cravings, but it’s protein rich and animal friendly. I’ve also been snacking on these protein-rich bars from a brand called Aloha. It’s real food made into healthy bars. It doesn’t taste all grimy, chalky, and weird like almost every protein bar out there.
MD: Many would say that they have no time to make healthy snacks ahead of time; what’s your response to that?
DS: The trick is to invest in airtight storage containers. That way you can keep lots of great snacks on hand and they’re still fresh tasting. Also, think one and done. A lot of my recipes can be done in big batches so you can make a lot at once to last all week, or like the dough for my chickpea chocolate chip cake/cookie, you can freeze them in smaller serving sizes and bake as needed. It’s really about planning ahead. We’re all pressed for time, so the more efficient you can be, the smarter your eating/snacking will be when that hunger hits.
MD: You mention in your book that you don’t love to cook. For those reading this who feel the same way, what advice do you have to turn this around and get excited about cooking healthy, delicious food?
DS: As much as I hate cleaning my house, I still really love living in a sparkling clean home. The reward is worth the effort. Ditto for cooking. And healthy, natural food really is delicious food: plain and simple. But if I’m going to invest time into cooking something, it’d better darn work when I’m done! So if it becomes something I’m successful at making, then the next time I make it, not only will I know it works, but I’ll probably be faster and more efficient in making it.
If you can find at least six great recipes to keep in your cooking arsenal: a dressing, a great snack, a veggie-friendly meal, maybe a meat-based or filling one-pot dish, a veggie side, and a fab dessert, then you’ll feel more confident and start having fun with those dishes, and maybe you’ll start experimenting with others.
MD: What snacks do you recommend when we run out of the ones we make from your book?
DS: Hands down, microwave popcorn because you can totally customize it, however sweet, savory, or maybe both! Lately, I’ve been heating up kernels of popcorn in a brown paper bag, and when they are steaming hot, I’ll sprinkle in matcha powder and a little white chocolate. Seal up the bag and toss to let it all melt and get incorporated. It’s so delicious. Or if I’m in the mood for something cheesy, I sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top to get that cheesy flavor without all the fat and calories.
A dehydrator is a fantastic option for making your own snacks. It’s a great investment because it’s literally just throwing in fresh ingredients and setting it; the low-temperature heating pulls moisture out but keeps all the beneficial enzymes and nutrients in. I’d rather snack on homemade fruit leathers any day of the week. A few of my faves: sun-dried tomatoes with oregano to satisfy that pizza craving, and a jerky of watermelon and hot sauce, which is literally just that: strips of watermelon with hot sauce left in a dehydrator for about 14 hours.
MD: What’s our top tip for healthy cooking?
DS: Don’t be afraid to use real fats in your cooking. Unrefined coconut oil and real grass-fed butter are great ingredients to keep in your kitchen. Real fat helps you feel full, but they also have nutritional benefits like DHA, which helps with brain function and overall wellness.
“It’s tempting to go to the supermarket and pick up a few tubs of pre-made dip and washed-and-cut veggies and arrange that on a platter for your next party,” Seo told us. “But when you realize how easy it is to make a really good dip that’s fresh, you’ll never go back to those tubs.”
1 small English cucumber
8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. za’atar
2 tbsp. fresh mint, minced
Julienned slices of zucchini, yellow squash, bell pepper, broccoli, carrots
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Halve, seed, and grate the cucumber. Place in a colander, and drain well.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the drained cucumber, yogurt, garlic, za’atar, and 1 tablespoon of the mint. Transfer to a serving bowl and arrange the vegetables around it.
- To serve, drizzle the dip with the oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon mint.
“In a perfect world, you’d reach refuel with one of these power bars after going vertically up a mountainside for several miles,” Seo said. “In reality, you might be camped outside a department store waiting for the Black Friday bargains to begin. Whichever scenario you’re more likely to find yourself in, these are a pretty good source of energy that are also really easy to make. I think they are just as good without chocolate, but a roomful of chocoholics begged to differ. You can decide for yourself.”
1 cup dried apricots
2 cups raw pecans
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup fair-trade dark chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
Seo’s Top Tip: “These power bars can be prepared one week in advance, cut into bars, and individually wrapped and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to grab and go.”