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Tag: healthy snacks

Fruit Smoothies Are Easy and Healthy

Huge carrots ready for the juicer in a Tel Aviv market.

I love getting freshly blended fruit and vegetable juices when I travel to tropical locales: maracuja juice at the Jugo bars in northeastern Brazil and papaya juice in Costa Rica stand out in my memory. And now I can add to that the fresh watermelon-mint juice smoothie I enjoyed at the Israeli markets last week.

Back at home, mangoes are coming into season somewhere as low-priced mangoes are all over the grocery stores. I’ve loved mangoes in the tropics since childhood, and now that they are available up north, I’m thrilled to hook my kids on this vitamin C powerhouse. Strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, cantaloupe… I’ll throw almost any fruit (or vegetable) into a smoothie. Sometimes I’ll add a “milk”; other times, not. There is not a “magic” recipe for a smoothie as any combination of fruits or vegetables and ice or water or juice or a milk or milk substitute will turn out a frothy delight. Lately, I’ve been making fresh mango-banana-almond milk smoothies and my kids are going crazy for them.

Loading a mango-strawberry smoothie into a Magic Bullet blender cup.

When I received a Magic Bullet mini blender as a gift, I wasn’t sure I’d ever use it. But when it comes to producing quick, delicious, healthy smoothies for my kids, the single-serving Magic Bullet sure comes in handy.

Be sure to always wash mangoes before cutting into them, as filth, pesticides, or bacteria can travel into the fruit on the knife if it cuts through a dirty peel. I use a veggie wash on all produce before cutting to reduce the risk of contamination.

To cut a mango, hold it up on end so it’s a flat, vertical oval. Slice the “cheeks” off on either side. Lightly score each cheek, taking care not to cut through the skin, then invert it and slice the mango flesh from the peel. You can find great instructional videos on YouTube for peeling mangoes.

Beware of packages of pre-sliced mangoes as they likely have been sprinkled with anti-microbial product like sodium bisulfate or sorbic acid, which may cause headaches, stomach distress, inflamed joints or other symptoms in sensitive people.

A Healthy Snacking Option: Seaweed Snacks

One of our favorite snacks at our house are toasted seaweed strips.

healthy snacking seaweed snacksThese irresistibly crunchy, salty, flavorful strips of nori are the same toasted seaweed wrappers used for making sushi rolls, cut into 3″ strips for snacking and often flavored with teryaki, sesame, or spicy chiles. You can find them in large plastic jars or smaller wrapped packets. Check the labels before choosing as some brands will contain added MSG and others may contain wheat and soy, if those are issues for you.

Like any leafy green vegetable, seaweed is a powerhouse of nutrition. For snackers, fat- and cholesterol-free seaweed offers soluable fiber, protein, and loads of calcium to make this a feel-good munchy. Seaweed’s bounty includes Vitamins A,  C,  E, and K, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid,  Phosphorus, Riboflavin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, and hard-to-get iodine.

High sodium levels may concern some, but look for those strips seasoned with sea salt rather than regular salt and you may not experience as much water retention as from eating other salty foods.

Are You Eating Your Nuts?

Studies have shown that eating nuts can reduce cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, and even reduce inflammation. Yet only about one third of Americans eat any nuts as part of their daily life when as little as a handful of nuts a day is a heart-healthy practice endorsed even by the U.S. FDA.

Containers full of nuts are always available for convenient snacking at my house.

Nuts are great sources of protein and essential amino acids as well as antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain good amounts of folic acid, vitamins E and K, and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, copper, selenium, potassium and zinc.

Nuts have gotten a bad rap for being high in calories, but research is showing that eating nuts does not lead to weight gain possibly because nuts fill you up so you don’t eat other less-healthy foods, or perhaps because the human body can efficiently move nuts through our digestive system, extracting the nutrition and eliminating the rest.

At our house, I keep large containers of nuts on a kitchen shelf for easy snacking access. I like to have a wide variety of nuts around, and my typical selection includes: almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, and peanuts.

Although peanuts are legumes, unlike tree nuts, they are high in protein and have much of the same nutritional benefits as tree nuts.