Star-Worthy Oscar Party Treats, Slimmed Down!

Entertaining Snacks

I love any excuse to have some friends and family over, hover around the television and host a potluck or a party – so obviously I am planning something fun for Sunday’s Oscars! But snacking doesn’t have to be mindless, and it doesn’t have to break your calorie bank, either! These suggestions below are what I will be having at my Academy Awards party – and I promise they are winners!

No Bake Peanut Butter Balls IMG_2751

These peanut butter balls taste like a rich dessert, but offer up filling fiber and protein, with minimal sugar! Also, they only take about 10 minutes to make from start to finish (plus some time to chill in the fridge). I love to keep these around and throw them in a bag for the day or snack on them at night when I want something sweet, and they stay in the fridge for about a week, or in the freezer for longer.

This is how the batter should look once blended

This is how the batter should look once blended

10 large, dried medjool dates, pitted

1/2 C natural peanut butter (only ingredients should be peanuts and a small amount of salt!)

1/4 C rolled oats

1/2 C unsweetened, dark chocolate chips

*Makes 15-18, 1″ balls

plain pb balls!

plain pb balls!

1. Soak oats in hot water for a few minutes (so that they soften)

2. Chop dates into small pieces and place in food processor or blender (I used my Magic Bullet).

3. Add peanut butter and oats. Blend until batter is course and ingredients are well incorporated.

4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Take a small spoon and scoop small portions of batter into your hands, forming small balls that measure approximately 1″ in diameter. Place each peanut butter ball on baking sheet and form rows of 3 or 4. Place baking sheet in fridge or freezer.*If you don’t want to make these chocolate covered, you are done after this step! I like to make about half chocolate covered and leave half plain, so continue if you plan to dip these in chocolate!

5. Melt chocolate chips. I prefer to use a double boiler (bring a small amount of water to a boil in a pot and cover with a large bowl. Add chocolate to bowl once water is boiling and allow the steam from the boiling water to melt the chocolate, stirring until chocolate is smooth). You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, but this often results in burnt patches. Place the chocolate in the microwave for short time segments if you prefer this method, and stir the chocolate often.

6. Take peanut butter balls from the fridge (they should be somewhat cool and solidified) and, using one at a time, roll each ball in the chocolate mixture, using a small spoon. Scoop ball up with spoon after it is coated and place back on baking sheet. Repeat for as many as you’d like dipped in chocolate!

7. Place in refrigerator to cool. They can be kept there overnight (or longer) or you can make these about an hour or two before your guests arrive (or you want to start eating them!) and take them out to serve once they are cooled. Enjoy!

1/2 chocolate dipped, 1/2 plain pb balls!

1/2 chocolate dipped, 1/2 plain pb balls!

Nutrient Breakdown for 1 ball (assuming recipe yields 16 servings): Calories 110 calories, Total Fat 7 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 11 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 26 mg, Calcium 3 mg

Sweet and Salty Popcorn

This popcorn is the easiest recipe you will ever make, and it is such a hit at parties! Also, popcorn is a whole grain and is a great, whole-food  choice over snacks like cookies and chips!

IMG_2742

2 1/2 C popcorn (*Note: Find a brand that simply uses popcorn, with perhaps some oil or salt – do not use buttered popcorn for this recipe! It should be simple, air-popped popcorn or very similar.)

1/4 C unsweetened, dark chocolate chips

1/2 tsp salt (if using unsalted or very lightly salted popcorn)

*Makes 5 half-cup servings

1. Microwave popcorn according to directions on box or bag. Remove popcorn from microwave and open bag to let steam escape and popcorn cool. place popcorn in large bowl.

2. Melt chocolate chips using double boiler method (listed above in step 4 of ‘No Bake Peanut Butter Balls’ recipe). Drizzle chocolate over popcorn by dipping a spoon or knife into the melted chocolate and gently flicking it over the popcorn.

3. If using unsalted or very lightly salted popcorn, top with salt. Set aside (or place in fridge for about 15-20 minutes), until chocolate has solidified and cooled. Serve at room temperature.

Nutrient Breakdown for 1/2 C popcorn: Calories 71 calories, Total Fat 4 g, Saturated fat 2 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 10 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 1 g, Sodium 233 mg, Calcium 0 mg

Popcorn on Fire

This savory popcorn is a good alternative to sweets  – and you can snack on handfuls for minimal calories and fat!

IMG_2746

2 1/2 C popcorn (*Note: Same rules as above recipe – air-popped and unbuttered!)

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/8 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt (only if using unsalted or very lightly salted popcorn)

*Makes 5 half-cup servings

The spice lineup!

The spice lineup!

1. Combine all spices in small bowl and mix well.

2. Microwave popcorn according to directions on box or bag.

3. Once popcorn is all popped (and while it is still hot) open the bag drizzle oil over popcorn and mix with a spoon.

4. Slowly pour spices over the popcorn so that spices are evenly distributed. Mix well with spoon. Serve hot or at room temperature!

Nutrient breakdown for 1/2 C popcorn: Calories 65 calories, Total Fat 6 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 3 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 1 g, Sodium 234 mg, Calcium 1 mg

Other Ideas

If you wanted other savory ideas, my dips are also great for entertaining! Find my buffalo-style cauliflower dip recipe HERE, my skinny spinach artichoke dip recipe HERE, and my guacamole recipe HERE! Also, veggies and pita with hummus is always a crowd-pleaser. Still craving something sweet? A fruit platter may just do the trick, without too much prep time (and without busting through the calorie budget)!

Looking forward to a night of fun, family, friends and food and fashion!

Let’s Talk About Snacks, Baby…

Why We Need “The Talk”…

I have noticed that many people I know are concerned about snacking. In fact, it seems as though salty-snackspeople are afraid of snacking, which is upsetting because eating (including snacking) should be a joyful experience. You are giving your body nutrients so that it can be strong for you and you are also enjoying the smell, taste and texture of the food (or at least you should be!) However, when it comes to snacking, I think some people are confused about which snacks are “good” or “bad”. I do not like to think of food in terms of “good” or bad”. Food is food. It can taste good or bad, but it is not, in itself, good or bad. Instead, I try to eat different types of food in moderation. For example, I often cook healthful breakfasts, lunches and dinners and usually eat fruit, vegetables or yogurt in between meals. However, if I want a cookie, or a muffin, or some other “treat” one day, I will likely have it – as part of a balanced diet. This concept seems to provoke a strong reaction in many people, as it seems many people associate foods such as cookies or ice cream with guilt. It is time to work on your relationship (with food) and befriend the enemy.

*photo courtesy of http://www.abetterbagofgroceries.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/salty-snacks.jpg 

Just Hear Me Out…

This is a break-up with your diet habits. Dieting does not usually lead to long-term weight loss. Skipping meals (and snacks) could cause binge-eating later, along with feelings of deprivation, guilt and behaviors associated with disordered eating. Instead, it is finally time to begin a new relationship with food – a healthy relationship, in which there is respect, peace and happiness. Now, I know many people want to enjoy snacking – who wouldn’t? However, confusion and anxiety about how to snack can certainly take the fun out of what is supposed to be both enjoyable and beneficial. So I am here to sort out fact from fiction, and offer up some of my favorite snack ideas, from whole foods to packaged goodies. After hearing my side, hopefully we can work it out.

Dark chocolateRumor Has it…

So, what is a “snack” and how does it differ from a “meal”? Truth is, depending on what works for you, a snack may not be any different from a meal. Many people find that eating multiple, small meals during the day helps to keep them feeling full and provides their bodies with adequate nutrition. However, if you are eating three meals a day (which, at a minimum, you should!) snacking is often a helpful way to keep your metabolism humming and tide you over until your next meal. Ideally, if someone is on a 1,800 calorie – 2,000 calorie diet (by “diet” I mean their average dietary intake, not a “diet” in the typical sense), meals should approximate 500 calories each, leaving 300 – 500 calories for snacking. (It should be noted that everyone’s caloric requirement is different and this is just an example). An ideal snack is typically thought to be about 150 – 300 calories, although this  can obviously vary from person-to- person and time-to-time. Snacks should usually consist of foods that offer healthful benefits, for example, a fruit that offers fiber along with vitamins and minerals. However, a snack can also be something that isn’t so much a contributor to your nutrient-dense calories, but rather, something you want to eat and can eat in moderation, knowing that your nutrients are coming from elsewhere in the diet. So it’s okay to break out the chocolate and ice cream every once in awhile – this is a break up after all. Just remember the foundations of good nutrition: balance, variety and moderation.

*photo courtesy of http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/8/17/1345200214609/Dark-chocolate-009.jpg

I Can See Clearly Now…

So, hopefully by now you are feeling that not only is it okay to snack – you are encouraged to snack. Just snack wisely (most of the time)! here are some of my favorite snacks, ranging from unprocessed fruits and vegetables to pre-packaged, store-bought convenience items.

Fruit:

This is an easy one. Need an on-the-go snack? Whole fruits that you can bite into, such as apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots and bananas are great, portable options. Additionally, you can cut up fruit when you do have the time so that when you are busy, you can just reach for the container (or bag, or whatever you choose to store your cut up fruit in) and bring it with you. Dried fruit is also a good option – just be aware of the sugar content. The process of drying is a dehydration process and usually sugar is used to attract water out of the fruit, increasing the sugar content of the fruit once it has been dried. If you’re at home, you can enjoy some of my favorite snacks and desserts: cut up grapefruit, broiled grapefruit with brown sugar, melted dark chocolate with strawberries and bananas, banana slices with peanut butter, frozen grapes or frozen dark chocolate-dipped bananas. Right now, clementines are also especially sweet!

07-Beautiful-Fruit-Wallpapers

*photo courtesy of http://picsmesh.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/07-Beautiful-Fruit-Wallpapers.jpg 

Vegetables, Beans, Legumes:

I like to bring sliced bell pepper, cucumber and carrots with me and usually I will bring a small container of hummus. The vegetables on their own do not contain many calories, but they offer a ton of vitamins and minerals and are full of water and fiber, which help to keep me full. Hummus helps to fill me up if I want a heartier snack and adds even more fiber. Edamame is another fun snack. A great tip is to sprinkle on the salt after you have heated the soybeans, since you will be able to taste the crystals that are on the surface and can use less salt. Edamame is also great on its own, eaten warm or cold. Also, I am unashamed to admit that I still eat ants on a log – more appropriately referred to at my age as celery with peanut butter and raisins.

originalOn-The-Go Bars and Treats:

I have recently become addicted to Larabars. These bars are minimally processed and contain very few ingredients (some bars only have 2 ingredients!), all of which I can pronounce and recognize as food items. While many granola bars and other on-the-go bars contain ingredients made in a laboratory and cheap, added fibers, such as inulin, which can often cause gastrointestinal distress, Larabars are made from dates and contain a few ingredients to enhance the flavor of the dates. The fiber and nutrients are all there, in a conveniently packaged bar that averages around 200 calories. My favorite flavor is peanut butter chocolate chip! I also make my own trail mixes, using individually packaged nuts, seeds and fruit. Here is my favorite combination: cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, dried blueberries, pieces of dark chocolate. Try to find unsalted or reduced-salt versions of nuts when making your own trail mixes.

*photo courtesy of http://s3.amazonaws.com/jo.www.larabar.com.2011/uploads/page/meta_social_images/15/original.png?1333057076

Creamy Deliciousness:total-0

My favorite go-to snack when I crave creaminess is Greek yogurt. I like Fage 0% plain, which contains few ingredients, among which are live, active cultures of beneficial bacteria that can colonize as microflora in the intestine and contribute to immune and digestive health. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus are the names of bacteria to look for when reading your yogurt label. I like to eat my Greek yogurt either with fruit, fruit and chocolate chips, fruit and honey, granola (usually my homemade granola, which can be found on this blog, although I also am a fan of Purely Elizabeth’s use of quinoa, chia, amaranth and other grains and seeds). I also like to put my Greek yogurt in a smoothie, whether it’s a light fruit smoothie (using REAL fruit) or a protein-packed peanut butter smoothie (which usually contains chocolate or a banana – or both!) If you’re craving ice cream, Breyer’s has a natural line that really hits the spot. I’m a fan of Breyer’s Natural Vanilla, which contains just four simple ingredients. I usually top my ice cream with some melted peanut butter to pump up the protein (and because I do not think there is any one food that I love more than peanut butter).

*photo courtesy of http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/cheese/yogurt/images/total-0.jpg 

Other Processed Foods:

My most recent find is Boom Chicka Pop popcorn, which has a “lightly sweet” flavor that tastes just like kettle-corn. This popcorn is only 35 calories per cup, or 120 calories for each 3 1/4 C serving. Also, this snack packs in 5 grams of fiber per serving and is surprisingly not high in sodium or sugar. I also like baked chips or cape cod chips, which have considerable less fat than regular potato chips. When it comes to cakes, muffins and cookies, I tend to bake my own, since I can replace oils and other fats with more healthful ingredients, such as Greek yogurt, swap out some of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour and ensure that I am aware of the amount of sugar I am consuming (and making sure that it is as natural as possible). It should be noted that black strap molasses actually contains calcium, so this sweetener is a wise choice. However, if you do not wish to bake your own baked goods, my advice is to read the nutrition label. Many of these commercially-sold baked goods contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, trans fats and a labyrinth of an ingredients label. Try to focus on foods (processed or otherwise) that you can recognize as foods. If you do not recognize the ingredient (or can’t pronounce it, like many chemicals and food additives used), it is likely not worthy of entering your body.

boom pop

*photo courtesy of http://www.plummarket.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/8/9/892773000697_1_1.jpg 

Parting Words…

I hope I cleared up some of the rumors and preconceived notions about snacks. I like to follow the “80/20 rule” – make sure that 80% of your diet provides the nutrients you need and you can allow about 20% of your diet to be wiggle room. Your healthy relationship with food can involve snacking! In fact, snacking is a great complement to an active, healthy lifestyle. You must always remember to fuel your body – it works hard for you!