“If we're not meant to have midnight snacks, why is there a light in the fridge?” ~ Unknown
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Healthy snacking has been on my mind an awful lot this month
Looking at September's calendar, one would never guess we're a couple of introverted homebodies. The weeks are marked with scribbles: “Ask someone to check on the kitties.” Squiggly Lines: “Food Photography Class” Bold letters: “Overnighting for work” Smiley faces: “Food Styling/Branding Class” and Hearts: “Weekend Escape for Two.”
“I'll pack snacks for the road.”
In between are the everydays, “Puppy walking date at the park.”
“I'll pack snacks for a picnic.”
And 6 am wake-up reminders for mornings with my daughter, “Mom, will you give me a ride to work this week?” A chance to spend some alone time with her “I had to catch my breath yesterday, I was so light-headed. I'd completely forgotten to eat.”
“I'll pack snacks for your afternoon break.”
I thought it might be fun to share a few thoughts around healthy snacking. Everything from my favorite things to reach for, what to keep in mind while roaming the grocery aisles, and tips for packing a little something for road-trips and airplane rides
At the Grocery
There's far more than meets the eye
For the longest time calorie counts (and fat content) were the filters for what ended up in my shopping cart. Certainly, calories count, but in the last couple of years I've begun to uncover
the rest of the story
It took a fundamental shift in thinking to be able to see beyond the nutrition label, and instead to the list of
A few things to keep in mind as you make your way up one aisle, and down the next
Fill your cart first with the things nature delivers ready-made. Think fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds
A note about nuts and seeds. They're great (although keep an eye on your portion sizes). When deciding which to buy, raw or dry-roasted will be your best bet.
Anything containing nuts, seeds, or grains, look for sprouted varieties (refined white flour won't sprout). If you're not able to find something sprouted, make the best choice based upon ingredients that are whole and beautiful. A few examples: Mary's Gone Crackers .. Go Raw .. Brad's Raw Chips .. Hope Hummus
For lovers of all things chips: Dehydrated over baked is the best. For example Kale Chips
Granted, dehydrated kale chips aren't everyone's thing(!). If you're in the mood for something salty and crunchy, choose a low-salt option that hasn't been baked in hydrogenated oils. For example Organic blue-corn tortilla chips
Keep right on walking past the deli meat. I know, it's easy and delicious; but the majority is filled with additives. Those sold in the organic section aren't quite as bad, although they're terribly high in sodium
Yogurt is a snacking staple for so many of us. Skip the overly sweetened flavored yogurt and instead choose plain Siggi's (or a similar brand). If you're missing the sweet, stir in a tsp of natural honey and add some berries
Bars are another popular go-to. Homemade is best, and when buying, there are a few things to watch out for. Take note of the sugar content: 10g or less is best. Also, choose one made with a few simple ingredients that you recognize and can pronounce. A few ideas? Larabars .. Eat Nakd .. Kit's Organic .. Kur .. RxBar .. Thunderbird .. Go Raw
If your grocery or co-op offers a deli with pre-made options, there may be snacking treasures to be had. Also, there's a very good chance that it's something that's been made on-site, in the last 48 hours (instead of a year ago!). It also won't contain all of the food dyes and additives found in the highly processed stuff
Keep an eagle eye out for sugar in disguise(!) A few of its aliases: lactose, maltodextrin, rice syrup, barley malt, beet sugar, agave nectar.
If your favorite snacks include something delicious on toast, a few thoughts about bread. If you're able either make your own or buy from a local bakery. Bread in plastic is highly processed, as opposed to the real thing, which is meant to go stale in a day
Avoid anything with soy protein isolate (a mainstay in popular energy bars and cereals). It acts as an endocrine disruptor in much the same way as BPA in plastic
Avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as cottonseed, rapeseed and soybean. They're some of the very worst things you could put into your body
What are some of the snacks you love at your house?
Such a fun no-bake snack
A crumble made of oats, pecans, dates, coconut oil, and sea salt make for such a wonderful crust. The middle layers, healthier (3-ingredient) versions of chocolate and caramel. Topped with a layer of crumble.
Tuck them away in the freezer, and you'll have a gooey, and health(ier) treat waiting at a moment's hungry notice.
~ Adapted from Pinch of Yum
No-Bake Chocolate Caramel Snack Bars
- 1 ½ cups pecan halves (or any nut of choice)
- 1 ½ cups rolled oats
- 8 Medjool dates, pitted
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted but not hot
- a pinch of coarse sea salt
- Chocolate Filling Layer
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- ¼ cup maple syrup, or honey (more or less to taste)
- Caramel Filling Layer
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted but not hot
- 3 ½ Tbsp almond butter
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top
- Crust + Topping
- Line a 9x5 loaf pan with plastic wrap. (This will make getting the bars out when it’s chilled much easier). Set aside.
- In a food processor or high-powered blender, add the crust's ingredients.
- Process until the dates have begun to break down and the mixture starts to come together (the consistency of a stiff dough)
- Add the ¾ of the dough to the lined pan. Press to cover the bottom in an even layer.
- Set aside.
- Chocolate Filling Layer
- Chocolate: In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, coconut oil, and maple syrup.
- Pour over oatmeal crust. Smooth out evenly.
- Chill in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.
- Caramel Filling Layer
- Meanwhile, combine the coconut oil, almond butter until smooth.
- Once the chocolate filling has begun to set, spread the caramel evenly over the crust. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture and a pinch or two of flaky sea salt.
- Chill the bars in the freezer for an hour or more (or in the fridge for 3 or 4 hours)
- Cut into 16 bars and enjoy!
I always enjoy your writing, as it’s so nice to hear your “voice.” Your posts are so relatable and your recipes are deeply satisfying in their ease and quality. We’ve never met, but you’re always a source of inspiration in my kitchen. Thank you for doing what you do!!
I have also been trying some healthy snacks recently and made my own kale chips. They were surprisingly nice. These chocolate caramel bars sound delicious for a sweeter treat and double thumbs up for being no bake!
Sometimes I look for the easiest option when doing food shopping but your your right, a lot of it is incredibly bad for us! I do like the look of your snack bars!
My favorite type of food to make NO BAKE!! I love yummy stuff that looks like it takes longer or is harder than it is!
I made these for a beach trip and they were a big hit! My three year old calls them “snickers bars” and I’m hoping that the real Snickers bars can remain a secret for a few more years. Thank you for the recipe…
Oh, I love Garfield! I almost named my cat Garfield, but my children overruled me, now his name is Charlie, don’t ask why, I got no idea, lol. I love sweets, so I want to thank you also for this great recipe. I am a chocolate fan, my daughter is a caramel fan, and my husband likes pecans, sounds like we all are getting something out of this deal. Blessings!
I love healthy snacking! Granola bars or oatmeals in yogurt are my favorites! I also love your Chocolate Caramel Snack Bars recipe. They look easy and quick to make, not to mention, incredibly delicious. Can’t wait to make them!
I make these ALL the time. My husband and I are obsessed! They’re great for snacking on the go! 😀
I haven’t had problems with the bars crumbling like others I’ve tried. Love love love this recipe. Thanks for sharing it!! 🙂
I love no baking snacks, especially when they are so easy to make! Also, chocolate is a big plus! I wish I actually had something to snack on right now, when I’m hungry but it’s too early for dinner. 🙂
Love the combo of caramel and chocolate. These look so good!
When I’m having a sugar craving, I pour coconut water over ice and add just a squeeze of lime. Works every time!
Miso Soup Packets – Just add hot water and I’ve got a warming and nourishing beverage to have in-between meals
You’ve basically managed to combine all of my favorite flavors into a recipe that’s actually good for you….. new best friend?!?! Great post, thank you!
These look great and even better they don’t need to be cooked. I think I’d struggle not to eat them all and feel poorly!!! I loved the Garfield cartoon. Me and him might be separated at birth
Whenever I travel, I always pack sunflower seeds, flax seeds, etc. Lara bars are portable, filling, and delicious. PB&J on graham crackers is also a staple at our house for the kids – easy, and yummy!
I love the way you write your posts! This recipe sounds AMAZING!
These look so much heartier and nutritious than the average snacking bar! I definitely want to try these. Thanks for the recipe!
I’ve been on a quest to become That Mom and make all sorts of nutritious lunchbox treats ever since my little one started kindergarten. These will be on the list, for sure! Hope you are well. xo
So I just looked at my grocery list for the week. Here’s what I have planned for snacking
– hard-boiled eggs
– pecan nut crisps
– the little cheese chunks or a bigger hunk cut into a bunch of little slices (I also spreadable goat cheese for on top of crackers)
– a bag of baby carrots
– slices of cucumber
– dried fruit
Meat jerky (sorry, vegetarians) has a ton of protein while being really low in fat and carbs. It’s pretty much the perfect snack for times when you know it’ll be hours before your next real meal.
How yummy do these look? I really fancy having these in the fridge for a late night snack as opposed to the packet of crisps I usually grab. Certainly much healthier too!!
No Bake is always a hit around our home. Summer time is perfect for not using the oven. Portion size is always important b
I have the same snacking struggles at the store. So many ingredients. So much sugar or salt! Homemade rocks. I know I’d love these. Making snacks with pecans and dates seems like such a good idea. I know I’ll make these for my family!
At times it is SO much easier to just say, I’ll pick up premade at the store. Homemade is definitely the best though. At least there you know what you’re putting into it. But I thank you for this recipe. I’m adding it to my box and hope to try it soon!
Great tip to fill the trolley with nature’s best first! My downfall is definitely crisps and I have the most voracious sweet tooth. Your bars look great – will definitely bookmark for future.
Every night before I go to bed, I have to have some frozen yogurt with blueberries and a pinch of cardamom. The day just wouldn’t be complete without it!
I love homemade granola bars. Heidi Swanson has a great recipe as does Deb Perlman at Smitten Kitchen. I make them for hiking trips, backpacking trips, air travel, easy snacking, several marathon breakfast/fuel for all of my running buddies. they are great! I love the variations too. I go for blueberries and flax, cherries and cacao nibs, all nuts drizzled in chocolate, lime and pineapple… and it goes on
These snacks look so healthy and tasty! I love that they are homemade, I agree with everyone else I rather bake my own snacks this way I know exactly what ingredients are being used. Caramel is my weakness so I’m sure these no bake chocolate caramel snacks bars would definitely be a snack I would enjoy !
I’ve just had a go at making these and I can honestly say they’re delicious. I’ll definitely be making them again. You have some of the best recipes 🙂
I love a no-bake treat! These babies look absolutely incredible, and your photography is inspirational!
Strings removed celery slice thin lengthwise; strawberries, a handful of blueberries and chopped parsley mixed; cheese; good crackers; and a few bites of a pasta salad I always have in the fridge.
Movie nights at our house demand popcorn. Dark chocolate drizzled (for her) and garlic/ghee (for him). Follow the popping directions then top accordingly. Yum!!
Kale Chip Avocado Toast – I make it every morning as a snack. Smash some avocado on a piece of toasted whole-grain bread, and sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast and crushed kale chips. Finish with a few hemp seeds, and a kiss of salt.
I was going to leave a comment, but I think I’m just gonna head to the kitchen and make these right now. This post made me hungry. Great job!
Sometimes when I think I want a snack, I’ve figured out I’m probably thirsty. So I combine the best of both worlds. My go-tos? Green veggie juices, matcha green tea lattes, and kombucha, which fermented tea but tastes just like soda. xo
Instead of office candy, which is just a mindless response, I give myself a mental break and head to the kitchen to chop up some fruit, which is nature’s candy
I love snack bars! Great after afternoon nap. Sweets and chocolates can brighten my day! I think I need a food processor or high-powered blender to make this perfectly. Thanks anyway for sharing your recipe! I will give you 5 stars for this!
I’m honestly SUCH a snacker! I can’t help myself, you know. Funny you mention kale chips because I unfortunately tried to make my own once and my entire apartment smelt like burn kale for about a week, ha! Hopefully I’ll have more look with these amazing looking caramel bars. Surely I can’t go wrong if I’m not baking!
Summer sausage. It’s the best!
I absolutely loved the photo of your desk with the laptop, camera and the No-Bake Chocolate Caramel Snack Bars. That’s great behind-the scenes Instagramable material.
Mostly everything you skip, I head to 😉 I just feel life is short enough to deny yourself.
These look like incredible bars. I love no bake desserts.
So glad this topic came up – love the idea with peanut/almond butter and jelly on grahams. I’m a big fan of granola/Kashi bars, and oranges with a granola bar and a pint of milk. Sounds like kindergarten, but it’s a perfect meal for snacking.
This is such a fun list! I’d add:
– slices of Applegate ham or turkey with light cream cheese
– cottage cheese + blueberries or cottage cheese + a sprinkling of ranch dressing powder
– apples with slices of cheddar
Edamame in the shell. Trader Joes sells them in the freezer section. Also, baked potato chips, fruit juice gummy bears, and dark chocolate!
Have you tried freeze dried fruit? It’s a new rage and quite yummy, though light as air. xx
OK now I most definitely need to try these. I have to admit I am all for no bake as well – I mean who doesn’t love something quick and easy to make and then enjoy!
Whenever I’m in the kitchen and have the munchies, I pull some frozen fruit out of the freezer. Grapes, blueberries, raspberries, it’s all good! xx
I’m a huge fan of the meager peanut butter on whole wheat. It’s full of protein, and I usually add sliced apples and a few chopped nuts for added flavor. I also always have a bag of almonds & dried fruit in my purse, even when I’m just out & about around town.
Ever since I started making Sprouted Kitchen’s beach day tuna salad, snacking has gone more smoothly. Turns out protein is key to our family’s longevity throughout the day. I make mini sandwiches for the tots and use the rest as a dip of for myself with whatever crackers and sliced veggies I have on hand. Add La Croix, cheese snacks, pretzels, fruit, and we even have a picnic lunch at the ready.
You REALLY have a gift for food photography and photo editing! These images are drool-worthy and have me wishing I already had these made. Yum!!
Tomato + mayo on toast >>>>>>> avocado toast. Yep, I said it.. 🙂 Love it!
My best friend turned me on to flax crackers with honey or almond butter. They’re a touch of sweetness without the addition of butter and sugar used to make the cookie I’d been having every afternoon. Just make sure the flax crackers are gluten free and raw because the heat will destroy the omega 3 oils in the flax seed!
Driving in LA can mean hours of sitting, so I keep a few bags of dried fruit in the car for snacks. Wonderful taste- no added sugar–delicious and healthy, too!
I always have nuts and fruit in my bag. They’re really good for you and filling enough that when you’re at the movies you won’t be tempted to buy a bunch of candy. Along with my nuts, I love dried fruit and bananas. And for a nice blend of salty and sweet, I’ll sometimes pack a bag of grapes along with lightly salted air-popped popcorn.
I’m addicted to Bare Simply’s Cinnamon Crunchy Apple Chips. I get all of the nutritional benefits of an apple without worrying about a bruised one that’s picked up beauty remnants and dust from the bottom of my purse!
I always make the mistake of going shopping when I’m hungry and buy alllll the sugar!! These look so good, another one to try!
I love a great no bake recipe and this one looks really easy and simple but delicious too! Great job this is definitely one to try.
When my co-worker and I moved into our shared office space last year, we accidentally created an office snack drawer (filled with chocolate bars) and an afternoon ritual (eating them). Every afternoon around 3 pm, we’d dig into cornflake chocolate bars and peanut butter truffles. I’m thinking it’s time for a snack-drawer makeover!
I always keep quality dark chocolate bars that came in individual serving-size packets because sometimes you do need something sweet, and this is a far better choice than going for the donuts because you get a sweet tooth craving. I never kept the regular sized chocolate bars in my desk because I would NOT be trusted with those things in high-stress work situations!
I’ve always loved NatureBox snacks, especially for our two boys. They have all-natural ingredients and a really wide variety to choose from. It’s funny though how the kids don’t want to take a grown-up‘s word for what’s good. After all, I like olives! And anchovies! And stinky cheese!
When I’m hungry for a chocolate bar, I make warmed almond milk dusted with cacao and sprinkled with coconut sugar. It satisfies a sweet tooth for less than 100 calories versus a bar at 200 calories.
I’m 5 months pregnant and snacking like crazy lately. I’ve been loving dark chocolate almonds and also Dang Coconut Chips. So much better than chips, and I love the buttery crunch. First recommended to me by my nutritionist, so I always feel good about having them around to snack on. xx
Yum! Yummy! I am always looking for a healthy snack for my kiddos! I am trying this one out it looks so good 🙂
I have a specific route I follow at the grocery store and I make sure to always get my fresh fruits and veggies first:) and I totally have a dehydrator and I have never thought of doing kale chips before! I will have to try it:)
I am so bad when it comes to grocery shopping, and sadly don’t quite follow your do’s and don’t x
This looks so yummy! I love no bake recipes, they just so easy to make. As far as snacking goes, I’m the biggest sucker for stuffed dates. They’re sweet, savory and filling, not to mention date-night classy. Regular Stilton is a standout here, but if blue cheeses are too intense for you, Trader Joe’s sells a white Stilton with apricots that we also really like.
Oh my goodness, these look so good! I love the sound of the caramel layer. Will definitely give these a go.
We’d definitely reach for a treat like this. Usually we take lots of fruit and sandwiches for snacks, but these look much more yummy. We like that you can whack them in the fridge x
I am definitely not good at healthy snacking and probably spend more money of eating junk snacks than meals. Love this no bake snack
I love that these are no bake… it gives me more confidence that when I try the recipe it’ll come out as it should!
Anything no bake is good with me. These look like the perfect afternoon treat and I bet kids would love making them too.
I would love to try some homemade granola! Looks so yummy and delicious. Awesome tips by the way! No bake is great.
Oh my goodness… these look so dreamy! Love that all natural ingredients are used!