Sometimes a bag of chips isn’t all that. Consumers of all ages are shunning empty calories and seeking out nutrient-dense, superfood snacks that give back. Energy, focus and overall wellness are what your customers are after now when they hit that mid-morning, 3 p.m. or late-night slump.
Plus, snackers are now more aware of the trade-offs involved with indulgent snacks, in part because they’re more conscious of the way they feel afterward, illustrated by research on snack habits by the Hartman Group.
The recent snacking study found that people experience indulgent snacks as “leaving one wanting more…they also result in a ‘crash’ later, leaving one lethargic and feeling heavy.”
Conversely, healthy snacks “make one feel satisfied, provide sustained energy and do not feel heavy in the stomach.”
The choice seems clear, but consumers also value convenience in snacks and let’s not forget flavor. After all, why snack if not to respond to a craving? The best snack ideas are doing all that: featuring the latest, healthiest ingredients while satisfying all the senses in a grab-and-go format.
Athletes are often ahead of the curve when it comes to nutrition’s role in better performance, so it’s never a bad idea to see what’s on the training table.
NHL Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin has a major interest in food and cooking, frequently Instagramming meals during his off-the-ice time. Lately, he’s been learning some nutrition lessons from Executive Chef Geoff Straub of Parkhurst Dining, who’s in charge of keeping the team well fed on the road and at home at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, Pa.
Recently, the two collaborated on a protein-rich snack, a zesty white bean salad that’s like a picnic favorite side dish, but in standalone form and better because of the chickpeas, crisp carrots, fresh herbs and olive oil.
One key that Straub has found for turning ordinary snacks into powerhouses is trading ordinary ingredients for better, more nutritious alternatives. Even a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which a few of the players crave as a snack) can be boosted.
“We make our own jelly out of nothing but fresh berries, a touch of honey for sweetness (only if necessary) and chia seeds, then spread that on whole-wheat bread with organic peanut butter,” Straub says.
Cutting way back on refined sugars and white flour has been another strategy that’s also in play at The Training Table, a café within the athletic complex that’s open to the public seven days a week.
“We try not to use any refined sugars in the café and definitely don’t use any for the Penguins,” Straub says. Even the ketchup that goes on the all-beef, grass-fed hot dogs is made in house, with honey and agave syrup.
Spelt, an ancient grain that’s a varietal of wheat, is used in the flour for pizza dough, adding iron, complex carbs, protein and dietary fiber to each slice.
Keep it Simple, Smoothies
While it can be great to incorporate the latest health trend ingredients (see sidebar on energy shots), sometimes it’s best to step away from the blender when you find yourself making a “kitchen sink” smoothie, complete with protein powder, coconut water and a mishmash of other ingredients du jour. At Boston University, the smoothie program is all about getting back to the basics, and has garnered attention from sports network ESPN along the way.
When ESPN was looking for a mid-morning snack to share with its audience, it turned to dietitian Sarah Butler, MS, RD, Sargent Choice Nutrition Center at Boston University (BU).
Butler shared two simple smoothies that are perfect for customers who don’t want to or have time to eat a big breakfast but need fuel before lunch. The first was a classic mixed berry, with blueberries, strawberries, nonfat Greek yogurt, soy milk and ice. The second was banana-berry, with frozen berries (a good way to add less ice and more nutrients to any smoothie), banana, orange juice and nonfat Greek yogurt. That’s it!
Also at BU, a berry bar has been a great way to offer the benefits of fresh berries when they’re in season, along with protein-packed plain yogurt and housemade granola that’s made with just a few ingredients, including rolled oats, wheat germ, cinnamon, honey, vanilla extract, chopped almonds and dried fruit.
Bites and bars
Part of the appeal of a great snack is the grab-and-go aspect. During a busy day, it’s the time to shine for protein-packed bites and bars. And they don’t have to taste like cardboard (or worse).
Gabriel Ochoa, chef and GM with Eurest Dining Services at Sony Electronics in San Diego, recently came across an idea for protein bites with real flavor at a chef’s conference in Dallas. Lemon poppy seed protein bites and peanut butter chocolate protein bites definitely provide fresh flavor profiles.
Snack Breaks with Energy Shots
Three words: matcha, kombucha, turmeric. If none of these words are ringing a bell, it’s time to get up to date on power ingredients. Energy shots are a great way to incorporate these hyper-healthy add-ins.