My New Favorite Go-To Snacks

As if you couldn’t tell by my Instagram pics, Tweets, and the variety of posts I’ve written on the subject: I freakin’ love food.

But now that the weather is getting warmer and I’m forced to shed my winter running layers to exercise outdoors comfortably, those extra few pounds wobbling around my middle have got to go. To get rid of them though, I’ve got to fight my number one problem: night-time snacking.

spI swear there’s like a magnet in my body that draws me into the kitchen every night. And no matter how healthfully I’ve eaten all day, I sabotage myself by binging on whatever junk food we have lying around the house. My mind tricks me into thinking I’m hungry, but I don’t crave things that would actually satisfy that hunger like a banana or roasted chickpeas. No, I’d rather go for the Pirate Booty or the Chewy Chips Ahoy.

Frankly, it’s a problem I’ve battled on and off for years, and I’m slowly getting better. But while I don’t always win the battle, I’ve learned a few things about my body that I’ve turned into ammunition against the nighttime snack attack:

1. Eating sugar makes me crave more sugar. Other people may be different but this is 100% the case for me. As soon as I finish a Hershey’s Kiss, I want another one. And another and another until I wake up from a chocolate-induced coma, covered in little foil wrappers with a sugar crash headache. Not pretty. To fight the sugar-begets-sugar Monster, I rely on some not-so-sugary treats that feel like real indulgences. Lately, this means stocking up on my newest favorite Chobani Flip flavor: Chocolate Haze Craze.

yogurt

The Greek yogurt has extra protein to fill me up, and the chocolate chips/hazelnuts that you stir into it tastes seriously so much like Nutella you may find yourself licking the container (not like that’s ever happened to me…) It’s the perfect “dinner is over, this is my dessert” signal to my brain, and not SO sweet that I find myself craving more chocolate after I’m done.

2. I need to snack a little more throughout the day to stay satisfied. This means bringing more healthy choices in to the office with me, which means I need to do some prep work ahead of time. To make it easier on myself, I’ve been digging Wasa crisps – delicious, crunchy little flatbreads – with some good old Laughing Cow cheese.

cheeseBesides the yummy crispy/creamy combo, I think the fact that I’m adding stuff together to make a snack kind of tricks my stomach into thinking it’s getting a meal, which helps!

3. My tastesbuds equate super-flavor = super-satisfying, so I’ve branched out and experimented with flavors that I’m not really used to. For years I’ve shunned spicy things because I felt like it dulled my tastebuds and burned too much, but my Naturebox delivery this month included a bag of Jalapeno Cashews that I chomped RIGHT through in a week or two. Who knew?! I also love me some Blue Diamond Salt & Vinegar Almonds.

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I make it a point to always have a jar of these bad boys around: in the office, at home, hell, even in the car! See that little “Intense Taste!” sign on the package? It’s not kidding! After savoring a small handful one at a time, my mouth is coated in that familiar boardwalk-fries flavor and the craving to eat all the things has subsided thanks to the extra protein in the almonds. That’s a win-win to me!

So now that I’ve shared my favorite snacks, it’s time to share yours! Tell me: what are you snacking on? How do you fight the hungry monster?

“80/20” or, “Liz Lemon is my Spirit Animal”

OK, so I’m the first to admit that I’m not perfect. I try my best to eat healthy, clean, non-processed foods but sometimes (okay, most of the time) it’s a struggle. It takes a lot of time and effort to select and prepare healthy food to consistently stay on track. Also, let’s be honest: brownies, cupcakes, chocolates…? Yes, yum, and more please. I mean, come on:

Liz Lemon is my spirit animal

           Liz Lemon is my spirit animal.

Full disclosure: I totally understand the benefits of clean eating. I did the Whole Life Challenge back in September and it was a truly life-changing experience. You can check out their website for the details, but the short version is this: for 8 weeks you focus on your diet, exercise, and mindfulness habits to become a better you. The exercise and meditation parts are great, yes, but I found the most benefit from the eating part. You cut all processed foods, dairy, sugars, and starches out of your diet – no bread, sugar, cheese, potatoes, pasta, etc. Instead, the focus is on vegetables, fruits and pure protein. Sounds simple, but let me tell you: it was HARD! But to stay compliant, I found a ton of new (delicious and super-healthy) recipes that I never would have tried if it weren’t for the WLC: crab cakes made with almond flour, beef and spinach stir-fry, mashed cauliflower – days of tasty meals that have made it into the regular meal plan rotation and expanded our culinary horizons!

After the challenge, it was tough to stay compliant. As a compromise, I resolved to stick to the 80-20 rule when I eat now: 80% of the time, I eat clean, non-processed “good” food, while the other 20% is non-compliant “bad” food. I hate classifying it like that, but you get the idea. 

Which brings me to today. As I write this, New Jersey is smack in the center of a diet-ruining hat trick: a 2-day long blizzard, Valentine’s Day candy week, and Easter candy’s release week. Add to that the rungries I experience during half marathon training, and I’m in the eye of a perfect storm here. So to give myself a healthier option than eating every piece of chocolate in this house and that in all of the houses in the immediate area, I decided to bake my go-to 80/20 treat: black bean brownies.

I first discovered these little squares of magic (no, not that kind of magic) at a friend’s party a few years ago and fell in love. Yes, they’re made with a box of brownie mix, which is loaded with sugar and other processed things. BUT, instead of adding eggs, butter, and/or oil like you normally would, you simply mix it with a can of pureed black beans and voila: brownies! Delicious, dense, fudge-like brownies that are loaded with filling fiber. I usually make these for pot-luck parties or work functions – the trick is to not tell people what they’re made with before they try them. I’ve found that when I say they’re black bean brownies, people immediately wrinkle their nose and turn them down. “Hell no!” they say, “No way I’ll eat a brownie made with beans!” But then, they try it, and the clouds open up and angels sing and before I know it I’m holding an empty tupperware lined with bits of brownie. 

So trust me. You may need to make them a few times to perfect them, but I promise they’ll be a hit in your house. Bonus: no eggs in the mix means you can eat as much batter as you want. I may or may not have eaten half the batter tonight before baking my batch. No judgement here. Let me know how you like them, and feel free to share your favorite 80/20 recipes in the comments!

Black Bean Brownies

oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

          oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

Ingredients: 
1 box of brownie mix any flavor (13×9 pan size)
1 can black beans (15.5 oz)

Directions:
1. Strain and rinse beans, put beans back in can and re-fill can with water to top.
2. Pour can of beans and water into blender/food processor (I use the magic bullet) and purée til liquefied. 
3. Combine box of brownie mix and puréed beans in a bowl and mix with a spoon til lumps are gone. It’ll take a while. Consider this your arm workout for the day.
4. Bake according to box, checking towards the end. Might take a few minutes longer than it says on the box, but stick a toothpick in the center – when it comes out clean you’re ready for brownies.