How is it already August?! The end of summer vacation is in sight—fortunately I’ve done my time and have no plans in the near future to return to school, though I remain nostalgic about years past. And one of my favorite pastimes growing up was looking forward to the after-school snack. (Really, who am I kidding? Snacking is still an all-time favorite activity for me today.)
My parents didn’t serve Twinkies and Hot Pockets (or what they call junk) at snack time—or ever, actually, even though I often attempted to convince them that Cheetos made me a better person. Fact: They do not make anyone a better person. In reality, all the artificial colors and flavors turned me into some kind of demonic child, and then I would crash in a temper tantrum of rage, or so my mother tells me. So I was the kid with the banana and peanut butter combo, granola bars and dried pineapple.
Speaking of kids and snacking, the fact that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years is troubling. It’s unnecessary for any child’s health to suffer these days with all the tips, tricks and resources out there that promote healthy snacking.
Here’s one: Check out the bulk aisle of your favorite local health food store (like Richard’s Foodporium). The bulk aisle offers a tremendous variety of healthy options, from key organic ingredients for making a savory meal to snacks like trail mixes packed with antioxidants to all-natural nibbles that will satisfy any sweet tooth. There are other benefits to buying bulk, too. 1) It’s less expensive, because you’re not paying for the packaging, labeling and advertising, which gives you more of the product for your money. 2) It is a simple “green” way to shop. The Environmental Protection Agency found that we create approximately 80 million tons of waste from packaging and containers each year. If there are ways to avoid creating more waste, I personally would like to take advantage. 3) Bulk foods are fresher, more natural and you can assess the color, aroma and texture of the product yourself. 4)You can purchase the exact amount you need—nothing more, nothing less.
In preparing a few easy recipes for a friend who needed help getting creative with snacks for her first graders, I went straight to the bulk aisle. Picky as they may be, I have a feeling the kiddos—and everyone—will enjoy any if not all of these concoctions.
Black Bean Hummus: Puree 1 cup cooked black beans with 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons each lemon juice and tahini, and 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil (or olive oil if you prefer), and top with slivered almonds. Season with salt to taste. This hummus can be served with anything from pita chips to assorted vegetables. I actually appreciate it with dried veggie chips (also available in the bulk aisle!).
Granola: This one you can get creative with and choose your favorite seeds, nuts, and dried fruit. Mix 3 cups rolled oats, 1 cup mixed seeds, 1 cup chopped mixed nuts, ¼ cup shredded coconut and a pinch each of salt and cinnamon. Toss with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 3 tablespoons honey. Spread on a baking sheet and bake 25 minutes at 325 degrees F, tossing occasionally. Cool; stir in 2 cups mixed dried fruit.
Caramel Popcorn: Cook corn kernels. Melt 1/3 cup butter with 1 tablespoon honey and a pinch of salt. Toss with 12 cups popcorn and 1 cup pecans. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 15 minutes at 325 degrees F, tossing. Cool.
There you have it, friends: Quick, easy, and healthy snacks for after school or any time of the year. Bon appetit! And remember, sharing is caring, so feel free to leave your favorite healthy snack in the comments section below.