Balanced Living

Healthy Snacking & Some Yummy Granola Balls!

Posted by Arja on May 20 in Snacks

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain more energy, or just adopt better eating habits in general snacking is an important part of your day!  A lot of focus is put on what we eat at our main meals - so much so that snacks become an afterthought and many people are left stranded without food while on the go.  Snacks don’t have to be elaborate in either their ingredients or in planning, but they do need to be balanced in order to do their job.

While the ultimate goal of snacking is to satisfy hunger and sustain us until our next meal, filling your belly with any random food won’t get you far. If what you reach for is loaded with sugar or refined carbohydrates with nothing to slow down the uptake of sugar into your bloodstream, your blood sugar will spike and you’ll come crashing back down in short order, leaving you irritable, foggy, and hungry.  You’d be surprised at all the areas where sugar is hiding though, so don’t let that seemingly healthy yoghurt or granola bar fool you. 

So, what makes a healthy snack?  You should consider your snacks miniature versions of your larger meals and aim to have a little protein, a little fat, and some healthy complex carbohydrates (which don’t have to be grain-based!).  Eating this way helps keep blood sugar levels stable, fills you up, and keeps you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time.  Some balanced snack ideas include:

-Homemade trail mix
-Brown rice cake with unsweetened almond butter (or any other nut better)
-Veggies and dip (feel free to think outside the hummus box here and use other beans, or come up with tangy yoghurt or kefir based dip with herbs); I’m particularly fond of carrots, sugar snap peas, and peppers
-Apple or banana with a tbsp. of nut butter (another personal fave!)
-Whole food bars (think Vega, Pure, or any other bar that has minimal ingredients, particularly mostly a mix of fruit and nuts) or makes your own using this recipe
-Yoghurt (dairy, or non-dairy like coconut yoghurt or almond yoghurt) with fruit, hemp seeds, or other desired toppings; try packing toppings separately and add them after if taking to work
-Homemade, whole grain muffins

Another snack that I’m quite fond of are these granola balls.  They’re easy to make, require no baking whatsoever, keep well in the fridge, and are totally portable.  I also love the fact that my son and I can make them together!  If you need a nut-free option either for yourself or for your school/workplace, omit the nut butter and use a seed butter like pumpkin or sunflower.  Like my granola and trail mix recipes, feel free to subtract and add ingredients that are better suited to your taste.  It really doesn’t matter, just as long as you keep the ratios relatively similar, otherwise they might not hold together.  And if, for some reason, they aren’t holding together well, add some more nut/seed butter and that will help them!

Granola Balls 
Makes approx. 40 golf ball-sized

2 cups rolled oats
½ cup dried coconut
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
½ cup dried blueberries/currants
½ cup dried cherries/apricots
¼ cup chocolate chips, preferably bittersweet 71% cacao (optional)
3 tbsp hemp seeds
1 cup nut butter (almond, hazelnut) or seed butter (pumpkin or sunflower)
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Step 1 – In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients, then mix in wet ingredients.
Step 2 – Moisten hands with water and form golf ball sized balls from mixture (will be very sticky!).  Or, press into a parchment sheet lined pan, chill, and then remove from pan and cut into squares.
Step 3 – Place in freezer for 20 minutes to set.  Store in the fridge for easy snacks.

There are many variations of this handy snack floating around, but I was introduced to them by a friend while studying nutrition.  My son and I spent 10-15 minutes together assembling the ingredients, I rolled the balls, and he enjoyed his snack.  He enjoyed helping in the kitchen, and even managed to photobomb me while I was taking shots for the post.  Fun times had by all.

Whether you are creating snacks for yourself or your family, remember, you should never be going longer than 3 hours without eating something, and with a little forethought and preparation your snack choices need never be driven by desperation.

Eat to feel good!

arja pennanen lytle c.n.p. n.n.c.p certified nutritional practitioner

Arja is a Holistic Nutritionist with a passion for balanced living. She loves to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally feel better by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel good. Arja uses whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people feel their best and achieve their health and wellness goals.