No doubt about it, desserts and snacks are delicious. Treating yourself to dessert or processed snack on special occasions is a normal part of eating. Unfortunately, these foods are often very accessible and heavily marketed. Eating them regularly can easily become a habit if one is not choosy. Both desserts and snacks tend to be high in sugar, saturated fat and salt, and void of vitamins and minerals. When these foods become part of our daily intake we run the risk of crowding out the nutrient dense foods that keep us well.
Tips for kicking processed foods:
- Don’t keep them in the house.
- Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time, such as on the weekend, so you’ll have a supply all week.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand at home and during the day so you won’t be tempted to purchase something.
- Veggies with dip, fresh fruit, dried fruit, whole grain bread, nuts, and nut butters are great snacking options if you don’t have time to cook.
Utilizing whole foods in homemade recipes can create desserts and snacks that are rich and delicious but also full of nutritional value. Take the avocado, for example, which is high in fiber, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin E, magnesium, and an array of phytonutrients such as antioxidants. They are most well known for their impressive fat profile, including mono and polyunsaturated fats, which aid in the absorption of carotenoids, in the human body. These carotenoids are antioxidants found in orange veggies, leafy greens and in the avocados themselves! Although they are not sweet, avocados are considered a fruit and their high fat content make them an unexpected but very fitting addition to desserts.
Ginger is available year round and its spicy and pungent flavor makes it an excellent addition to your snack options. Research shows that ginger is a powerful antioxidant and reducer of inflammation. It is commonly used to relieve symptoms of nausea, usually in the form of tea. Combine ginger with high-fiber popcorn and you’ve got a recipe for a healthy digestive system. The soluble and insoluble fiber in popcorn help your low digestive tract to say regular and also function as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Popcorn also very low calorie. A cup of air popped popcorn has only 31 calories, before toppings!
Lastly, I cannot conclude without mentioning sesame seeds. These little stars contain copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, selenium and fiber. Vegans should incorporate sesame seeds into their diet for a non-dairy source of calcium. Try a combination of black and white sesame seeds to add a beautiful contrast to dishes. The chocolate mousse below is quick, simple and features avocado as the star of the show. You would never know it by taste though, as this mousse is velvety and chocolatey. To satisfy crunchy cravings, try this high fiber popcorn snack, which features ginger and sesame for a unique flavor pop!
Vegan Chocolate Mousse
Makes about 2 cups
Total Time: 15 minutes
1 large ripe avocado
1/4 cup raw or regular cocoa powder
1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup maple syrup or other sweetener
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
Pinch of salt (optional)
Optional extras: toasted sliced almonds, chia seeds, frozen berries, toasted coconut, cocoa nibs
1) Purée the avocado in a blender or food processor until smooth. You may need to pause to scrape the sides.
2) Mix together the cocoa powder, coconut milk and salt (if using) until combined and add to the avocado.
3) Pulse in the sweetener and vanilla extract.
4) Dish into serving cups and add desired toppings. The mousse can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
Sesame Ginger Popcorn
Makes 9-10 cups
Total Time: 40 minutes
9-10 cups unsalted unbuttered popped popcorn (about ½ cup kernels)
1 cup cashew halves or slivered almonds
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey or agave
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
½ teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated ginger root
½ teaspoon sriracha, or to taste (optional)
1) Heat oven to 250°F. In broiler pan, mix popcorn and nuts.
2) In small bowl, mix butter, soy sauce, lime juice, honey, sesame seeds, oil gingerroot, and sriracha, if using. Moving quickly, pour over popcorn mixture and toss to coat.
3) Bake uncovered 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until dry and crisp. Store tightly covered at room temperature.