(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Often, we're told to stop staring when we linger in front of the refrigerator blindly staring into space pondering our next snack. That kind of loitering, we're usually advised, leads to mindless eating that can pack on the pounds. However, as we close out one year and make our healthful resolutions for the next, if you keep your kitchen stocked with nutritious ingredients, if you piece together a quick nosh while standing in front of the 'fridge or pantry, the opposite can be true. Such split-second snacks can propel your health goals rather than detract from them.
Food preparation - including when you are just nibbling - can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun and fast, as the following ideas illustrate. The dishes are delicious evidence that everyone - including you and your kidlet helpers - has time for healthy family time in the kitchen. Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, for easy implementations like this or more involved feasts down the line, since there are no right or wrong amounts. These are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations, so whatever you choose to use can't help but draw "wows."
Everything But the Kitchen Sink
Just like full meals, the best snacks are balanced. Grab a little each of a lot of healthful choices, like: a prune, a few peanuts, one-third of a cup of yogurt (double wrapping the rest of the container and refrigerating for enjoyment later the same day), a few sips of juice, a small handful of whole-grain cereal, a couple of sugar-snap peapods and a few blueberries.
Nutritionists suggest greens be included in the diet every day. Each time you are staring into the refrigerator deciding what to eat, grab a handful of freshly washed greens, like romaine, kale, spinach, or mixed greens salad mix, and munch while you decide.
Clean-Out-Your-Pantry Creative Kabobs
Refresh your pantry and refrigerator for the New Year and decide anything healthful and still within its expiration date you'll combine into a creative snacking concoction. An example: kabobs sporting pitted black olives, chunks of drained canned pineapple, string cheese you've cut into bite-sized bits and whole-grain packaged croutons you've first slightly soaked in the natural juice-only (no sugar added) from your canned pineapple.
Condiments Worth Compliments
Exotic dipping sauces for snacks can be a quick result of staring at the door shelf in your refrigerator. A few ideas (all should be mixed well): lite soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and sugar-free bottled French, Russian or Thousand Island salad dressing; Dijon mustard, salsa and a dab of low-fat mayonnaise; ketchup, maple syrup and strawberry jam.
An Anything-But-Nutty Nut-Filled Idea
Nuts, in moderation due to their high calorie and (healthful) fat counts, are nutrition powerhouses. Mix bits of any nuts and seeds you find in your pantry with whatever whole-grain cereals are hanging around in there. Add this to some popcorn (which is another whole-grain addition) and sprinkle with some spices that are concentrated sources of natural antioxidants, like cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, thyme, turmeric and cayenne.
Often, we'll choose just one potato at a time from our refrigerator's vegetable bins. A "potpourri" can be more nutritious and delicious. Bake up (the microwave oven can often produce the same results and save three-quarters of the time) a batch of everything you've got on hand, from russet, to sweet potatoes, to red and purple varieties, varying time based on size. Mash all together, including the healthful skins, season with freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg and a small amount of honey.
Consider these unusual, but tasty, toppings for the vanilla variety of fresh yogurt, frozen yogurt of sugar-free ice cream: grated carrots or zucchini, minced canned beets or cooked mashed sweet potatoes that are still warm or reheated.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: If you are preparing a long-simmering soup, be sure to keep it covered for at least half the cooking time or a large proportion of your broth may boil away. That will be more reason your house will have the scent of a wonderful home-cooked meal, but leave you with a bulkier soup and smaller portions for your family!
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.