We are currently in the worst of Winter, with the weather lately forcing big chunks of the country to stay inside as the polar vortex rolled through. With that comes lots of down time and sometimes boredom, which often leads to eating to pass the time as we lounge on our couches binge watching Netflix. As a nutritionist, I would never recommend eating out of boredom as that is one of the easiest ways extra calories sneak into our diets and lead to weight gain.
That being said, everyone is going to do it sometimes (myself included) because there is definitely something super comforting about bumming around and eating mindlessly from time to time. Instead of bingeing on greasy potato chips or inhaling a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and overshooting your daily calories, here are a couple of extremely quick and simple alternative snacks you can try.
I make these all of the time. Just slice a fresh cucumber as thin as possible (a mandoline works great for this) and season to your liking. My go-to toppings are garlic salt, pepper, and a generous amount of hot sauce. Four ounces of cucumber is only 15 calories, so if you slice these thin enough you could have literally hundreds of cucumber chips before you even approached the calories in a single serving of bagged potato chips. And let's face it, half the time we’re mindlessly snacking, it's more so about just munching on something than really enjoying each bite, so one whole sliced cucumber should last you through quite a few episodes of TV shows. These are also delicious! Cucumbers are a great base to make taste anyway you please depending on what seasonings you prefer (just like potatoes).
Baked Potato Chips
Potatoes have got to be one of the most misunderstood foods. When anyone hears potato, they often suddenly associate them with being fattening and high in calories, but they’re actually extremely satiating and low in calories, assuming of course they aren't deep fried and covered with sauce or cheese. To make your own potato chips, slice your choice of potato variety into very thin slices (about a quarter centimeter works pretty good so again a mandoline comes in handy), spray them with zero calorie cooking spray and top with your favorite seasoning. Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes, and make sure to rotate the pan halfway through or else you’ll end up with some of the chips more cooked than others from being near the back of the oven (like I did in this picture, oops). You can easily fill up a large baking tray with one medium sized potato. A half pound potato is only about 150-170 calories, so you could essentially have the same volume of chips as a large bag of the fried variety and be consuming the calorie total of a single serving.
If you don't want to spend all morning making pancakes, there’s an extremely easy alternative. Blend one large banana with two medium whole eggs until liquified. Pour small circles onto a pan or griddle and that's it. These are delicious but a few words of warning: they usually don't make the “prettiest” looking crepes as the sugar in the banana coupled with the ingredient list being so low makes them darken very fast. They can also be a little bit tricky to flip unless you manage to do this at the perfect time of them hardening up but before they get burnt. A simple solution to this is to just add a tablespoon of flour or almond flour or even protein powder to the mix. You’ll want to keep the pancakes to no more than 3-4 inches in diameter, so one serving of this will make a decent amount. You can make a bigger batch of these and throw them in the fridge and top them with some fresh fruit when you have them as well. Compared to the other options listed above these will be a little denser on the calorie side but they’ll fill you up much quicker as well.
These are just a few of the options I regularly make that are great alternatives to more calorically dense, nutrient empty pre-packaged snacks that end up being far too often binged on. If you’re interested in more alternatives don't hesitate to comment below!
Want to learn how to make a a nutrient-dense, high-protein meal that you can feel good about eating? Sign up for The Chopping Block's Eating the Winter Weight Away on Tuesday, March 12 6pm at the Merchandise Mart.