Vegan Cooking Tips

Quick and Easy Snacks

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD

Snacking is part of our modern lifestyle. Very few of us have the time or desire to sit down to three square meals a day. In reality, eating many small meals throughout the day can be healthier than eating several large meals. If you space out mini-meals every couple of hours, you will tend to eat less since you will be less hungry. Small meals are less strain on your digestive system and may help to keep blood sugar and energy levels more consistent.

Treat each snack as a mini-meal. Snack foods should be both fun and healthy. That means that all the snack food you eat should "count." Ask yourself if the snack foods you select have decent amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber and fluid, and limited amounts of calories from fat (especially saturated fat), sodium, and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.

Good examples of snack foods that "count" include fresh and dried fruit and vegetables, unsweetened juices, water or sparkling water, whole grain crackers, unsalted or low-salt pretzels, lowfat baked potato and vegetable chips with lowfat dips (such as salsa or hummus), vegan yogurt, baked white and sweet potatoes, and whole grain bread products. These foods are high in the good stuff (fiber, vitamins, etc.) and low in the bad stuff (saturated fat, salt, etc.).

Become a label reader and you'll find a whole world of wonderful snack foods out there. Say "yes!" to the following ingredients on the label of packaged foods: dried fruit and vegetables; ground whole grains (oats, barley, rye) found in breads, cereals and crackers; seaweed (also listed as kelp or nori); brown rice; nuts; seeds, fruit and vegetable juice; soy, rice and grain milks; tofu; corn (but not corn syrup solids, which is another form of refined sugar); fruit juice concentrate, and nutritional yeast.

Some examples of healthy savory snacks that can be purchased "on the go" are brown rice cakes (with a small container of salsa, guacamole, or hummus on the side for dipping), ready-to-eat edamame, blue tortilla chips or whole wheat pretzels (with a small container of soy yogurt or nut butter on the side). On the sweet side, look for dried fruit mixes; coconut water; fruit leather (unsweetened or naturally sweetened); unsweetened applesauce; canned, packed in water or juice; apricots, plums or pineapples; or frozen berries.

If there is time, you may want to think ahead and bake an extra white or sweet potato, pop some extra popcorn, or even thinly slice veggies, such as beets or carrots and bake them for homemade veggie chips. Take advantage of seasonal fresh fruit or dried fruit, cold cereal, and nuts to create your own snack mixes. Pre-packaging your homemade snack mixes in small containers or reusable bags will make them easy to grab as you head out the door and keep you from grabbing something unhealthy on the road.

Add some of the following to your shopping list so you can assemble some fast snacks to take to work or school or to enjoy when you are relaxing:

  • whole wheat crackers, pretzels, popcorn, cold cereal
  • dried fruit, nuts
  • frozen berries or cut fruit
  • vegan yogurt
  • extra-firm tofu, tempeh, or seitan
  • nori or dried seaweed sheets
  • ready-to-eat fresh produce, such as sliced fresh carrots or baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, fresh green beans, snow peas or sugar snaps (edible pea pods), radishes, green onions, cut broccoli or cauliflower florets, shredded cabbage
  • canned, packed in water or juice apricots, plums, tropical fruit salad
  • pickles, olives
  • canned tomatoes and tomato paste, salsa

Here are some ideas for combining these ingredients:

  • Tomato paste, with or without salsa mixed in, used as a condiment for pretzels, crackers, or fresh veggies
  • Nori crumbled into cold cereal, such as corn chex or shredded wheat or added to crumbled tofu, tempeh, or seitan
  • Canned or frozen fruit mixed with vegan yogurt
  • Popcorn tossed with nori