The world of creative snacking

Healthy snacking. A common phrase in today's world. But what does it mean, really, to the average person? Not that I've surveyed thousands of people to obtain these observations or anything, but my take on what people view as "healthy snacking" is so called "bird food" or "rabbit food" or else the stuff that the grocery store tells everyone is "healthy." In the first category? Carrot/celery sticks. Water. Small salad. Piece of fruit or some grapes. Crackers and cheese. Rice cakes. Whole grain anything. In the second? Low-fat granola bars. 100-calorie cookies. Anything with "Smart" or "Lean" or "Healthy" on the label. Low-carb, sugar-free, 38%-less-fat-than-leading-brand.

You get the idea. A world of food that few have been brought up to actually enjoy and fewer still have managed to condition themselves into liking. Who wants to eat boring, tasteless carrot sticks when Dunkies has gingerbread donuts and pumpkin muffins? What's a 100-calorie, cardboard-tasting cookie compared to the bakery down the street that has those out-of-this-world chocolate cookies? Why eat a plain-old banana when Petsi Pies is miraculously open when you pass by?

Enter stomach issues, weight issues, digestion problems. Now you have to eat healthy - your doctor and your body say you no longer have a choice. Your heart sinks at the thought of carrot sticks and salads replacing those oh-so-scrumptious bakery runs, potentially for the rest of your life.

Healthy snacking isn't as bad as it's painted to be. Carrot sticks, if you buy organic carrots and chop them yourself (as opposed to the prechopped mini carrots in bags at the store), can actually taste good - carrots have a really strong, solid flavor, actually. Salads are fun to play around with. I've done a lot with them over the past 8 months.

But, even those can get old after awhile. Carrot sticks lose their appeal after 2 weeks of eating them every day. Salad mixes become rather repetitious and drab after using the same ones over and over again. And, as this happens, it feels like there's this empty pit in your soul whenever you reach for that healthy snack because the doc says no more trips to the bakery.

My answer to this dilemma (having lived it for quite some time now and getting *really* bored with the same old same old!):
Get creative.

It sounds like a simple enough directive. Instead of celery sticks, put some peanut butter on there sometimes. Or add some apple slices atop the crackers and cheese. The problem there is that those are the stock "creative ways" to spice up your healthy snacking. [Just read the back of any Ritz Cracker box or any number of healthy eating websites...] And really, those stock "creative" snack alternatives get old and boring, too. You're back where you started again: Boring-snack-ville, population: YOU. [Yeah, I've totally been there as well. In some ways it's worse than eating plain boring snacks because there's this strange sense of failure at not being able to make healthy snacking a little more enjoyable.]

Getting creative means getting creative. Test the limits of your taste buds. Put two foods together that any "normal human being" would never combine. [For the record: any "normal human being" knows bubkiss about it - and really, "they" don't exist anyway, so no worries about "them."] Open your cupboard, pull out two or three things you like, and give yourself the puzzle of figuring out how you can make them into a edible and enjoyable snack for later in the day. The point is to start having fun, to let go of the fear that you won't like everything you try (you won't, so why worry about it?), and to get yourself more actively involved with the food you eat. It's a game! Have fun! Go crazy! But most importantly, don't let the game end. Once you find something you like, use if for a couple of weeks, and then let it evolve into something else, or retire it for a month or two, or else you run the risk of getting stuck in that boring-snack-ville rut again.

I understand that starting this game can be a little daunting. It's hard to let your mind wander, food-wise. So, let me help you get started. Everyone's tastes are different, obviously, but I offer up here some of my recent favorites. Try 'em, scrunch your nose at them and go a completely different route, laugh at them... Whatever your reaction, perhaps this will help you in your quest for ever more interesting ways to snack healthily!

Corn Thins with Mashed Potatoes & Raisins
This was literally a 'today' creation. I've put warmed mashed potatoes on my corn thins in the past, but I've never added raisins on top. What a world of difference!

2 corn thins (like rice cakes, only made with corn - I got them at Whole Foods)
~1/4-1/3 cup of creamy mashed potatoes (I use lots of soy milk in mine to make them spreadable) - basically enough to get a thickness of a pinky fingernail atop the corn thin - don't skimp!
A handful or two of raisins

Warm up the mashed potatoes - 45 seconds in the microwave is plenty - and spread on the corn thins. Top with raisins. Make funny faces or crazy intricate designs if desired, let yourself be a kid about it.

Applesauce with Almonds & Honey
I used this one early on in my diet - before they took nuts completely away from me later down the road. It became quite a favorite of mine!

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
small handful of raw almonds
a couple dollops of honey (preferably fresh pure honey that comes straight from the bees (and has no preservatives!!!) - it tastes so much better!

Put applesauce in a bowl. Add almonds and stir until almonds are completely coated in applesauce. Dribble honey over top of applesauce and almonds, a little at a time. Stir and taste, and add more honey if desired until you get the right amount of sweetness.

[Did you know: Honey doesn't ever "go bad" - it will outlive you if you keep it for long enough (I'm not advising this, just emphasizing a point here...). The reason conventionally packaged honey at the regular grocery store has preservatives in it is to A) preserve a certain color that marketers have deemed "honey color" and B) to make sure the honey doesn't crystallize. Pure honey, straight from the bees, will crystallize if left to sit for awhile. But, it's not "rotten" - all you need to do is boil some water, remove the water from heat, then put the container of honey in the hot water - I usually put a towel over the top to give it a little steam bath. Repeat this until the honey is fully decrystallized.]

Dried Berries & Rice Crisp Cereal

~1/4 cup of two of your favorite dried berries - change 'em up every now and then! I prefer cherries and blueberries, but have been known to sub in cranberries every now and then...
~1/4 cup Rice Crisp cereal - you will notice I distinctly do not say "Rice Krispies" - read the label some time, they're awful for you! - my preferred choice is brown rice crisp cereal made by Erewhon.

Mix and enjoy. Finger food and so easy to put together for a quick snack!

Your turn! Go create, explore, and enjoy!


  1. Two things about this:

    1. I love that you used the word "bubkiss".

    2. You bring up a great point about being adventurous. I've discovered so many cool things by experimenting - though mostly meal-related and not snack related. Usually they make Steve raise an eyebrow and then end up totally delish.

    It's time for me to spread this to the snack world... thanks!! :)

  2. On the topic of odd combinations: During sesshin, Seigan and Jiho cooked up a roasted beet salad, covered with a pistachio sauce. A combination I _never_ would've thought of! Delicious.

    That's all.