Sticking to a healthy diet isn’t always easy, especially when you are constantly on the go. Hunger pangs can strike whenever and wherever, making it tempting to grab a quick takeaway or fast food.
While the odd cheeseburger and fries or icing-slathered doughnut are never a bad thing, they are not the ideal meal or snack to indulge in on a regular basis. Because most processed fatty food is high in sugar, saturated fat, salt, trans fats and empty calories, it can lead to obesity, heart disease and strokes, constipation, high blood pressure and increased anxiety and mood swings, among other things.
A little planning and forethought is all you need to circumvent this. Doing some initial prep for home-made, nutritious snacks to pack in your lunch box, as well as making sure you have a stash of nutritious pick-me-ups, is easy once you get into the habit, whether you are trying to shed a few extra kilos, keep your energy levels up, or give the kids a boost throughout the day.
Bear in mind that if you are in and out of meetings, something that you can grab and eat on the go is ideal, and if you are going to be on the road for long periods of time, you’ll need to pack something non-perishable. Whether you have a hectic schedule and very little time, need something more substantial than a health bar, or just want a few titbits to graze on during the day (or have ravenous kids who do plenty of sport), there is a healthy snack that will suit your lifestyle perfectly.
First things first, what you need to consider before you start:
• Look for wholegrains and complex carbohydrates, which are better for you and are also more filling.
• Protein and fibre are what will keep you going until your next meal, so make sure you have some of both.
• Be wary of added sugar and salt, which lurk in many so-called healthy foods. Natural sugars such as those in fruit are fine.
• Don’t overdo it. Unless your snack is replacing a meal (in which case it will be more than a handful of nuts and an apple), it should be sufficient to sustain until your next mealtime.
• Steer clear of junk food. It’s high in calories and low in nutrients, and once the habit forms it is hard to break.
Depending on your schedule, you can make a list of the nutritious snacks you want to eat for the week, and prepare them ahead of time, or you can make them the night before. Items like muffins (spinach and feta, sun-dried tomato and olive, for example) can be frozen and taken out as needed, while boiled eggs, fruit or yogurt can be packed ahead of time, ready to grab and go the next day. This goes for adults and kids, and anything that is packed ahead of time for the little ones can be put on a low shelf in the fridge or pantry, ready for them to grab on their way to school or their extracurricular activities. Perishables in the lunch box can be kept cool in a cooler bag.
Types of snacks:
You can either make or buy healthy snacks, but remember, home-made is always better, that way you know exactly which ingredients went into your lunch box. Fresh and dried fruit, yogurt, nuts and biltong can be purchased and added as extras or incorporated into your menu.
• Trail and snack mixes • Granola • Fruit bars • Muffins • Sandwiches • Smoothies • Salad and breakfast jars • Hard-boiled eggs • Crunchies and oat cookies • Popcorn • Soups •
The above can all be made ahead of time. Sandwiches must be on wholegrain bread, and there are any number of delicious fillings – hummus, tapenade, cold meat, peanut butter, cheese, tomato and cucumber. Veggie fingers with a tzatziki or hummus dip are tasty and nutritious.
Another delicious, wholesome, and nutritious snack to include in your lunch box is chickpeas, which become golden, crunchy, and moreish when roasted. Chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and fibre and are an easy, cost-effective way to up the nutritional profile of just about any recipe. You can eat them as is, or you can add a handful of nuts (of your choice – almond, cashew, macadamia or peanut, or a mix of all these, goji berries, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds, and a scattering of dark chocolate chips.
Roast chickpea recipe:
• Preheat your oven to 220°C. • Rinse the contents of a 410g tin of chickpeas, then lightly pat dry on a paper towel. • Spread the chickpeas out onto a baking sheet. • Drizzle with a little olive oil, then add sea salt and a sprinkling of spices. • A delish mix is cumin, smoked paprika and black pepper, but you can add garam masala, dried rosemary, nutritional yeast or plain salt. • Roast for around 30 minutes, shaking the baking pan a few times for even roasting, until golden and crispy. • Leave to cool and add to a trail mix or eat as is. Enjoy!