In spring my thoughts turn to running. It’s probably my favorite time of year to run – when temperatures hover between 40 and 55 in the mornings, often smudged with a cool grey mist and the early hints of buds turning from red to green. I almost can’t resist getting a few more miles in – half a mile here, a mile and a half there, added on when the crazy schedule allows. And of course the side benefit of running a few more miles is needing a few more calories. Note that I do qualify it as a FEW; it’s all too easy to eat your way through a crisp spring run and then some. But, I have a few personal snack hacks that are both satisfying and either don’t hit with too damaging a caloric punch and/or are so nutritionally sound, they’re worth it. One of these (I’ll save the best for last) is kind of life-changing. Bonus points if your kids get on board (mine do love hard-boiled eggs).
1. My first snack-hack is the easiest one, especially right after Easter – the humble hard-boiled egg. While my son doesn’t eat “the oak” he’ll easily put down two hard boiled whites for breakfast. I just got protein into a protein-averse-unless-it’s-nuggetized child. BOOM. For me, the additional protein is a big plus, with or without the “oak,” and grabbing a quick egg from the fridge in the morning means I feel full longer versus craving excess carbs before lunch.
2. Pretty much anything with hummus. Yes, I will eat all the hummus. I’m not going to say that I’ve dipped just my finger in hummus . . . but I’m not going to say that I haven’t. If you have carrots or bell pepper strips around, those will work, too. My kids aren’t big into dips yet beyond the venerable ranch, so I haven’t managed to sell them on hummus, but I keep trying. Again, I like the protein boost and snarf up store-bought roasted garlic hummus.
3. Dried cherry/almond/dark chocolate mix (portion control is key). This is beautiful in its simplicity, but admittedly a little dangerous if you struggle with portion control. I like to mix dark chocolate chunks with dried cherries and whole, unsalted almonds. Crunchy. Sweet. Chewy. Rich. Both the cherries and the dark chocolate are sources of powerful antioxidants, and the dark chocolate may also help to lower blood pressure, while the almonds supply heart-healthy and satisfying fats. My kids will definitely snack on little handfuls of this when it’s left out.
4. Cherry tomato – cottage cheese bites. OK. These last two are as much work as I’m gonna ask you to do (because I am actually LAZY when it comes to most cooking) and here we’re going to hollow out out a cherry tomato. In fact, hollow out a few of them. Mix one 8oz container low-fat cottage cheese with a generous dollop of sour cream, season with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. Then fill those little tomato holes with the cottage cheese mixture. A low-fat, high calcium protein along with a veggie (OK fruit, tomatoes are a fruit). You can also fill the tomatoes with egg salad, tuna salad, or any other kind of stuffing your heart desires. Full disclosure – my kids will not touch these. Whatever. I think they are delicious.
5. Chocolate-covered frozen banana-grahams (LIFE-CHANGING). This is one of a few items that my kids tried once and liked, but then decided they don’t like. Fine with me because I will totally hoard these little gems in the freezer all summer. After a weekend long run I feel like I’ve earned a day full of eating to recuperate . . . but the truth is I’m not running THAT kind of mileage, so I need to keep the indulgences reasonable. This is one that tastes so decadent, and yet is relatively healthy. If you like cheesecake / banana cheesecake, you will feel you’ve died and gone to heaven. I like to use a very ripe banana, almost to the point where it won’t hold together anymore, but not quite there. Cut it into chunks and layer on top of a graham cracker piece or cinnamon graham cracker. Then dunk the whole shebang into one of these chocolate dips (and yes, you could just melt chocolate or make a ganache but again, the lazy) and freeze. Voila – an indulgence you can enjoy guilt free with a Saturday night glass of chardonnay.
You. Are. Welcome.