Healthy Snack Ideas #1

I believe the jury is still out on whether snacking between meals is actually beneficial for weight loss but there are times when you just need to stave off the hunger demons in-between meals. There’s nothing worse than feeling a little peckish and being faced with sugar-laden flapjacks masquerading as the ‘healthy option’, or the office biscuit tin, brimming with fatty, buttery biscuits or worse: the chocolate bar. Oh the guilt when you give in and satiate your starvation with unhealthy, nutritionally-decrepit foods! You might as well just have takeaway tonight and a fry-up tomorrow for breakfast: those are the thoughts that soon swim into your head as soon as you have banquished hunger pangs with bad foods.

I have found an answer. Not the answer but an answer. The holy grail of healthy but satisfying snacks destined to fuel the engine for a few more hours until your next meal. The banana muffin. This is not a banana muffin as we know it with butter and refined sugar and white flour. This is that banana muffin’s slightly healthier cousin.

These have gone down to roaring applause at school – ok not quite but they were well-received- and were even enjoyed by my cake-loving partner. Of course, it’s not like a delicate slice of Victoria sponge with afternoon tea (fresh leaves not bagged), but this is a snack you could enjoy everyday without being consumed with food guilt.

Here goes:

3 large ripe bananas (lovely burst of natural sugar and easy to digest)

1/4 cup of honey or maple syrup or agave syrup

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 and 3/4 cup of wholemeal flour

1/2 cup light olive oil

1 tbsp milk

1 large egg beaten

Mash the bananas until smooth and relatively lump-free. Mix in the beaten egg. In a separate bowl, lightly mix the flour and bicarb and baking powder and add the banana-egg mixture. To this, add the olive oil, milk and honey and mix all ingredients together. Do be careful not to over mix.

Bake in the oven Gas Mark 5 or 175C for approximately 25 minutes – to be honest, I always just check with a toothpick – if it comes out clean when inserted in to the centre of a muffin, then you’re good to go.

This is a very forgiving recipe. I have mixed in dark chocolate chips when needing to knock chocolate cravings on the head and also added a tbsp of chia and/or mixed seeds to the recipe for extra nutritional benefits. You could always experiment with blueberries, raspberries or other fruit, dried or fresh. Please feel free to leave comments about your cooking endeavours on my blog.

The top of the muffin on my image looks a little darker than it did in real-life but hey-ho, I love a good crunchy muffin top.

Hot cup of tea and warm banana muffin...the perfect afternoon snack
Hot cup of tea and warm banana muffin…the perfect afternoon snack

Healthy Lunch Idea #1

So, in my week off – I’m a teacher by day and want-to-be food blogger by night – I decided to whip up a warm salad to stave off the cravings for all things naughty. Sometimes it actually feels like the biscuits are calling me from the cupboard and I’ve often found that in my plight to be “healthy” I’ve eaten a small lunch, only to be undone by an afternoon cuppa and several digestives. Then once the taste of refined sugars and buttery fats has taken hold, I’ve found myself delving in to chocolates (still leftover from Christmas!) and anything else that’s calorific and lurking in the back of my cupboards. Rocky road, anyone? With guilt washing over me, I consider the soggy salad, or tasteless egg white omlette I had for lunch and just wish I’d had a bacon sandwich instead.

I digress.

I found this recipe online and tweaked it slightly to suit my needs and what was in my cupboard and supermarket at the time. With nourishing, vitamin-filled pearl barley and a healthy kick of smoked paprika (containing capsaicin which helps lower blood pressure) and all the benefits of onions, olives and hit of protein from the feta cheese, it felt quite naughty but on reflection is much better for you and helps to keep cravings at bay. If, like me, you don’t mind eating cold leftovers, I see no reason why you can’t increase the quantities and take some for lunch the next day. It would also taste good with grilled chicken and gently panfried chorizo, if you really wanted to up the naughtiness – perhaps on a workout day? You could also add some beans – I think butter beans would absorb the flavours of the paprika and also provide an extra protein hit.

Here’s my recipe – for one.

50g pearl barley

1/4 White onion sliced

1 large garlic clove (I’m a big fan) crushed

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp tomato puree

small handfull black olives chopped

small handful sunblush or sundries tomatoes chopped

feta cheese (as much – or as little – as you like)

parsely to serve

Place the pearl barley in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil for approximately 25 minutes. Gently pan fry the onions and garlic in olive oil and when softened, but not coloured, add the smoked paprika. At this point, I added a little water with the tomato puree to make a slightly wetter sauce. Keep adding water as needed, a few splashes at a time, while the flavours mingle together. When cooked through for a few minutes, add the olives and sunblush tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil. When the barley is cooked, tip into a bowl and smother with your sauce and crumble some chunks of feta over the top before finishing with some torn, or finely chopped, parsely.

There we have it. Not the least calorific lunch on the block but healthy and satisfying all the same. A bowl yesterday saw me through until dinner time in the evening and because I’d been “good” and avoided sweet, sugary snacks, I was more inclined to enjoy a healthy, nourishing dinner too.

Warm wintry salad with a hit of the Med...
Warm wintry salad with a hit of the Med…

Enjoy!