At the end of a long wintry day, you just want to sink down on the sofa, TV remote in hand, and reach for that ‘sharing’ packet of crisps, or your favourite chocolate – we’ve all been there!
The problem with these oversize snack bags (aside from their typical sky-high calorie content) is that, unless you’ve got the willpower of a saint, getting through an entire pack in one sitting is all too easy – and getting into the habit of this can wreak havoc on that healthy eating routine you’ve worked so hard on!
So what do we do when we want a treat, but a piece of fruit just isn’t going to do the trick? Finding healthier alternatives to your favourite snacks can help you to indulge in your evening treat, without the high fat and calorie contents!
Here are a few healthy alternatives from Dr Sally Norton, NHS weight loss consultant surgeon.
Popcorn isn’t necessarily the most immediate thing that comes to mind when we think of healthy eating. But we’re not talking about the traditional kinds, coated in toffee or swathed in butter and sugar – some of these bags can reach a whopping 800calories for a 200g serving! But when you take it back to basics, popcorn can indeed be a low-calorie, healthy alternative to snack on.
How to: Drizzle a little olive oil in a large saucepan and heat on high. Pour in your popcorn kernels (50g of kernels will make around a litre) and pop the lid on the saucepan. Wait a few minutes, and you’ll soon begin to hear those tell-tale popping sounds. Wait a couple of minutes and when the popping begins to slow down, take off the heat. At this stage, you can take the lid off, but be wary of stray kernels popping out at you!
To add some flavour, sprinkle over some grated dark chocolate, and freeze-dried raspberries for a sweet indulgence, or try peppering with a tsp of smoked paprika for a warming, spicy treat.
Warm apple pie is a British winter favourite. But for those of trying to eat a little healthier, the high calorie and fat content in your traditional pie-crust spells disaster. But what’s to say you can’t indulge in those same flavours, without the sky-high calorie content. This Baked Apples recipe does just that.
How to: Simply peel and thinly slice a couple of good-quality cooking apples and pop in the oven until browned. When they’re done, take them out, sprinkle with some cinnamon, and serve up with a good dollop of natural yoghurt. All the flavour, and just a fraction of the calories!
If your cravings tend to be more savoury than sweet, then these kale chips make a tasty alternative to your usual bagged crisps.
How to: Wash and dry one bag of prepped kale. Remove any of the very thick stalks, and scatter the remainder in a single layer on a baking sheet. Spritz or drizzle lightly with olive oil (or any flavoured oils if you prefer). Next, sprinkle with some sea salt or black pepper to your taste preferences. Finally, pop into the oven at 190 degrees C, for around 7-10 minutes until crisp. Keep an eye out though, as kale can quickly burn and turn bitter!
Frozen Banana Ice-cream
This ice-cream alternative is perfect for those of you with an ultra-sweet tooth – and a great idea to serve up for your kids as an after-dinner treat! With just two base ingredients, this one’s also something you can whip up in a moment’s notice – we recommend keeping a couple of bananas in your freezer at all times, for when those sugar cravings hit.
How to: Pop your frozen bananas (1-2 per person) some unsweetened almond milk (1 tablespoon per person) into your food processor and blitz until you get that ice-cream consistency. For added flavour, try adding some frozen berries, or a handful of dark chocolate chips.
Baked Vegetable Crisps
I love the idea of vegetable crisps, but am always a little underwhelmed with most store-bought packs, which often pack a little too much salt and oil for my liking. Instead, we’ve taken to making our own baked versions at home, which help satisfy our cravings for crisps, without the high fat and salt levels:
How to: Choose which vegetables to use – carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and beetroot all make great baked crisps! Peel and slice up enough of your picks to layer a baking sheet. Spritz with a little olive oil spray or drizzle lightly. Pop into the oven for around 20 minutes at 200 degrees C until golden, keeping an eye out to avoid them burning. Take them out and pop onto a paper towel to cool. Sprinkle with your flavouring of choice: salt and pepper, chilli flakes, and paprika all work really well, but feel free to experiment with your flavours. Pop into a bowl and enjoy!