With the holidays just around the corner, food temptations are all around. It seems everywhere I look, there are fattening goodies to entice me. Chocolate everywhere, not to mention sugary concoctions, cakes and cookies, pies, and other treats. Even finding healthy dinner dishes can be challenging as the weather turns colder and we crave rich, carbohydrate laden foods.
Here are a few of my favorite snack discoveries that are satisfying, tasty, and low in fat and calories. I don't feel guilty eating them, and they actually keep me from craving meats and sweets.
1. In the gourmet category, I recently discovered Bella Cucina condiments and gourmet snacks. The Atlanta- based company has products on shelves everywhere, and most recently opened a shop in the Grand Central markets. They sell a broad range of pestos -- I love the lemon artichoke, which is light and airy with a slight citrus tang and satisfying tidbits of artichoke, and sundried tomato, which is also light with a mild tomato flavor -it works with for salad dressings, pasta sauce, and with chicken. There are also dessert sauces and flavorings, spices, pastas, olive oil, and elegant dishware. A 3 oz container of the lemon artichoke pesto is 140 calories for 1/4 cup, but is only 1.5 grams of saturated fat. While a bit pricey at about $8.50 a jar, these pestos are well worth it. They also sell wonderful gift sets for the holidays at reasonable prices, such as a mini selection of three flavored pestos for around $34. For more info, visit bellacucina.com. Even if you don't buy a thing online, it's worth a visit to the web site, where visitors are treated to a black and white vintage slide show of family photos and an operatic score!
2. La Serena roasted chestnuts are a delicious snack I also recently discovered at the Grand Central market. A 3. 3 oz package is only $1.29, and is great for snacking out of the bag as well as adding to salads, soups, and other dishes. I added some to my morning oatmeal and the chestnuts provided a sweet burst of flavor. These chestnuts are much sweeter then others I have tried, and satisfy dessert cravings. Two and a half chestnuts only have 60 calories and 1 gram of fat, plus chestnuts are a great source of trace minerals.
3. The health benefits of green tea have been touted for years, but it's always been a challenge drinking enough tea each day to get the benefits. Pure Inventions green teas, based in Red Bank, NJ, ( www. PureInventions.com) makes a line of concentrated flavored teas such as Tropical and Vanilla, that make a delicious dietary supplement, heated or cold. Mix one full dropped (30 drops) in 8 oz water, and drink as often as you like. The Tropical Green Tea is my favorite, and contains lotus leaf extract, Kudzu extract, and Chinese licorice extract. While one bottle is $30, it usually lasts me over a month and comes out cheaper in the end. I feel really energized drinking this, and the best part is, it contains no sugar, fat, calories, or caffeine.
4. Smart Balance popcorn is one of the few microwave popcorns out there without added fats and chemicals. It is nonhydroginated, with no transfats, low fat and low sodium. One cup of the popped popcorn is 120 calories, and 0 calories from fat. See www.smartbalance.com.
5. McCann's Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal comes either bagged or in individual servings perfect for the microwave. I find it lighter than most other oatmeals I have tried, with a refreshing, nutty taste. One-half cup is 150 calories, with 20 calories from fat, and no sodium or sugar. I like to add spices to mine, such as ginger, cinnamon, or pumpkin spice, as well as sliced fresh fruit such as peaches, strawberries, or bananas. For recipes and product line, visit www.mccanns.ie.
Stay tuned for more healthy snack discoveries...and snack on!