Snack Attack: Kale Chips + Avocado Dip
With graduate school coming to a close, and constantly being on the go, studying, making presentations, or actively working in the clinic, I need to have good snacks on hand. If I didn’t, I would buy whatever is cheapest and easiest at the Bastyr Bookstore or cafeteria. Luckily, usually what they offer tends to be pretty healthy, but still not as easy on the wallet, nor as fresh as if I made my very own. However, more often than not I can easily get into a snack rut, making the snacks I bring (trail mix or an apple) just not as interesting or flavorful as something else that may be offered on campus. So even if I do think I ahead, I fall into my expensive habits.
Since snacks are vital to help get us from one meal to the next, offering the needed energy to supply our constant demands, it is very important that they are balanced. A great tip when preparing your daily snacks is to think about whether it contains all three macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Protein and fat both help increase feelings of satiety as well as manage our blood sugar throughout the day. Carbohydrates on the other hand are the preferred fuel source for the brain, making sure we can think our way through the day with a clear mind. When we limit carbohydrates, we can easily feel fatigued, have brain fog, and or feel mentally slow and forgetful.
Secondly, using whole food ingredients in your snack increases the nutrient profile of your food. For instance what is the difference between a peeled apple vs a whole apple? Obviously one has the peel on, and one doesn’t. However, that single change alters the food drastically. The peel contains most of the fiber found in the apple, specifically called pectin (1), which is one of the reasons you may have heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. The fiber keeps your gut and friendly bacteria healthy and helps support blood sugar (1). However, there is more to the jingle than just the fiber. The peel and directly beneath the peel, is where most of the wonderful phytochemicals, otherwise known as bioactives, are found. Apples for instance are touted for their large amounts of quercetin, a polyphenol which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and slow carbohydrate digestion (2,3). Depending on the color of the apple, its phytochemical make up will be different, as each color is a different bioactive. Anthocyanins are specifically responsible for the traditional red color of apples (2). So each apple, is unique in its bioactive makeup. However, most importantly it is the interaction of the fiber and the phytochemicals, that give the apple its healthy slogan. If you want the benefits of an apple a day, keep the peel on. Whole food is best!
Now that you have a few key points to keep in mind when making your snacks, you are set to go! Some easy examples that combine both the ideas of balancing snacks and using whole foods include the following:
Whole apple with a nut butter (almond, cashew, sunflower)
Cottage cheese and berries
Hummus and veggies (carrot sticks, cucumbers, radishes, celery, snap peas)
Black Bean chips with guacamole
Nut and Date balls
Cheese and whole wheat crackers
Brown rice cake topped with mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and basil
Hardboiled egg and a banana
A balanced energy bar
Three bean salad
Ants on a log (celery topped with nut butter and raisins)
Roasted chickpeas and fruit
Power bread topped with avocado and sprouts
As these are all great ideas, I have a couple recipes today that you could try to make at home that may be even more exciting and special!
First off, I LOVE KALE CHIPS. Yet most of the time I do not want to pay $6.99 for a small bag that I will eat in one sitting. Call me cheap, but I just can’t afford that, especially not as a graduate student who is sitting on loans. BUT I CAN MAKE THEM MYSELF. Not to mention they only cost about $8 or less depending on current sales, for 6-8x the amount you get in a bag. Besides that, kale chips taste amazing. They are bursting with a ton of nutrients, much more than what you will find in your ordinary corn chip. In one serving of my Cheezy Spiced Kale Chips, you will get 6g of plant protein, 6g of healthy fats, and 10g of complex carbohydrates with 14% of your daily fiber needs. Now just talking balance…this is great! All the wonderful little stuff, like vitamins and minerals, not to mention also all those amazing bioactives, are abundant. These kale chips are rich is calcium, iron, and B vitamins just to name a few. They are truly food SUPERSTARS. Make them. Eat them. Share them…and repeat.
Another delicious snack that I just can’t get enough of is this creamy avocado dip. Its super easy to make, takes very little time, and you can make large batches. This is great for anyone who does not like to spend much time in the kitchen. It’s a simple pureed dip filled with avocado, yogurt, cilantro, and some spices. I put this stuff on sandwiches, wraps, and use it as a salad dressing. But more often, I use it as a dip- whether it’s for my weekly steamed artichoke, roasted broccoli, or for a snack at school with snap peas, cucumber, bell pepper, and carrots. It is just super easy, and zesty! Also…just like the kale chips, it offers many great nutrients to keep you happy and healthy.
And to keep you happy in the kitchen here is a great tune to match the sunny day vibe here in Seattle!
Cheezy Spiced Kale Chips
Makes 8 servings
This recipe is for raw kale chips, using an Excalibur dehydrator. However if you do not have a dehydrator there are easy steps to make them in your oven.
2 bunches of curly green kale (~8 leaves per bunch)
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes (not in oil)
1/3 cup cashew nuts
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
¼ cup water
Place the sundried tomatoes into a small bowl, and cover with fresh warm water. Allow to soak 1 hour. Place the cashews and sunflower seeds together into a separate small bowl and cover with fresh warm water and allow to soak 1 hour.
Meanwhile wash, devein, and tear the kale leaves into chip-sized pieces. Shake free of excess water in a clean kitchen towel, and add into an extra large bowl.
After the nuts and seeds have softened, strain of excess water, and add to a large food processor. Add the tomatoes and their soak water to the nuts. Continue to add the zucchini, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, paprika, cayenne, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper. Process until smooth. You may need to add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to get a thick paste. The trick is not to have it too runny but also not too dry.
Pour the mixture over the kale leaves. Thoroughly mix the mixture into the leaves, gently massaging it into each crevice. Evenly spread out the leaves onto dehydrator trays, and dehydrates for 9 hours at 115 degrees. Store in an airtight container or bag to maintain optimal freshness and crisp texture.
Note: If you do not have a dehydrator you can also bake the kale chips in the oven at the lowest temperature setting. Line trays with parchment paper and bake until crisp (2-4 hours) checking periodically and flipping them over. Each oven varies, so after the first time you will know exactly how long it takes for you to make kale chips in your oven.
Creamy Avocado Dip
Makes 8, ¼ cup servings
You can easily cut this recipe in half…I just love to have a lot around, otherwise I have to make a new batch every other day. Also if you don’t like cilantro you can swap it out with any other herb you have on hand, parsley and basil both work great! Also, the spices can be optional...simple is also super tasty!
1 large avocado
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
2 garlic clove
2 handfuls cilantro (destemmed)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons organic seasoned rice vinegar
1-2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
Fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste
Add all the ingredients into a large food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
1. Sherry CL, Kim SS, Dilger RN, et al. Sickness behavior induced by endotoxin can be mitigated by the dietary soluble fiber, pectin, through up-regulation of IL-4 and Th2 polarization. Brain, Behavior and Immunity. 2010(24);631-640.
2. WHF. Apples.http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=15. Accessed June 6, 2014.
3. AICR. Apples. http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/apples.html#intro. Accessed June 6, 2014.