Monday, July 12, 2010

It's All In The Mix



Over the past 30 years, eating on the go has become an integrated part of the American lifestyle. The rise of  fast food restaurants and pre-packaged snacks are two significant contributors to the increasing obesity rate. These institutions have also led to a considerable decrease in the amount of fruits and vegetables that the average person consumes on a daily basis. Of course there are times when a drive-thru meal or a gas station snack is the only option, but planning ahead and pre-portioning snacks at home are much smarter ways to stay healthy amidst a busy schedule.

Raw fruits and vegetables are always the best choices for a mid-afternoon snack; but when nothing but "salty" will do, weigh your options carefully. Potato chips are a typical office desk snack because they are readily available in vending machines and need absolutely no preparation. Chips are the epitome of most dieters because they are loaded with saturated fat, which can lead to increased cholesterol levels. They are also one of the many foods that the average person tends to eat more than one serving at a time, often without realizing it. In light of recent health conscious trends, companies have lowered fat and calorie content of their products by offering baked chips and other light varieties. While it is an improvement, such snacks still lack nutrients and leave you feeling hungry shortly after eating them.

This recipe for Wasabi Pea Snack Mix originated from Southern Living. The combination of wasabi peas, almonds, sesame sticks, and rye chips provides an indescribable flavor explosion. If you have never tried anything with wasabi flavor, it has a distinct kick. Each crunch releases an initial heat that quickly disappears, allowing for the other flavors to be enjoyed as well. The mixture is great for parties or for filling containers to give as gifts around the holidays.

Other snack mixes, such as the popular trail mix, often incorporate candy and peanuts, providing half of the calories from fat. Instead of peanuts, this mix includes almonds. Almonds are high in mono-unsaturated fat, the good fat that has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and to lower cholesterol. Mono-unsaturated fats help to keep you feeling full for longer. Almonds are high in the antioxidant vitamin E, Magnesium, and Potassium. Through research of diabetic patients, it has been determined that these nuts decrease post-meal rise of blood glucose. This is not  particularly a low calorie recipe, but it is low in carbohydrates and saturated fat. For weight loss, I would not recommend this as part of an every day diet; but it is a treat you can feel good about eating, as it is very rich in nutrients.

This is very simple to make- just toss all the ingredients in a bowl. It is a healthier alternative to other snack foods, but with just about any food, mindless munching can lead to mindless weight gain. To avoid eating the whole bowl, measure individual serving sizes and separate into plastic snack-size bags. Now you can take them in your purse or stash them in your car- a perfect "pick-me-up" in a pinch.

Wasabi Pea Snack Mix
serves 10

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups wasabi peas
1 cup salted almonds
2 cups rye chips
1 cup sesame sticks

Mix everything together in a large bowl and divide into 10 (1/2 cup) servings

Nutrition: (per 1/2 cup serving) 260 calories, 18g carbohydrate, 7g protein, 20g fat, 4g fiber

Where to find it: The wasabi peas are often with the Asian cuisine in grocery stores and are sometimes packaged in a can. Sesame sticks are usually located in this section as well.I have also found both of these items at Publix and Whole Foods in the nut sections. Any salted almonds will work in this recipe, but I like to use Blue Diamond brand of sea salt almonds because they have no added oils. The rye chips that i use are made by Gardetto's and can usually be found near the chips and snack mixes. If you cannot find these, you can substitute bagel chips or pretzels.

Photos credited to Bill Glidewell

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Nutrition student with a passion for giving yummy recipes a healthy make-over. Future RD on a constant search for the best food finds. And new blogger trying to relay my tasty ideas to everyone else.

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