Snacking your way to a healthy lifestyle

Don’t we all love to snack? Behaviourists, who have studied the psychology of snacking, say it’s not always because we are hungry. We snack to improve our mood (boredom or comfort eating), as a convenient on-the-go meal or energy boost (school and work lunches), and when socialising, watching television or sport.

Despite our best intentions, snacking is here to stay! But what we snack on makes a difference to our health, weight and fitness. That’s why growing our own healthy veggie snacks can help reduce, and maybe even eliminate, the consumption of chips, chocolates and other delicious (but diabolical) treats.

‘Snack’ veggies meet all the criteria of snacks – they are crunchy, sweet or savoury, varied, interesting and easy to eat. They also appeal to the eye, especially the new multi-coloured varieties.

Cherry tomatoes have always been popular as a snack food, but now there are ‘currant’ and ‘grape’ types that are extra sweet, flavourful and even more snackable. Small-fruiting tomatoes are quicker to harvest than the large fruit varieties and most varieties are suitable for growing in containers and even in large hanging baskets.

Try these: Candyland Red is a new currant-type tomato. The dark-red sweet fruit is smaller than the cherry tomato, ready to pop into your mouth straight from the garden. The plant is tidier than other current-type tomatoes and the clusters of fruit are formed on the outside of the plant, making it easier to harvest.

Baby carrots are another super-crunchy snack, and they are ideal container veggies, especially if the garden soil is heavy. Direct-sow seed into troughs or pots that are at least 20cm deep. Thin to 10cm apart. Use regular, fine potting soil, keep moist during germination and water regularly.

Try these: Parisian Round carrots are sweet and round, ideal for lunch boxes. They grow faster than normal carrots because of their shallow root system and are great for poor soil conditions. They can be sown all year round and are ready for harvesting within 50 – 70 days of sowing.

Radishes are the ultimate slimming vegetable because they contain lots of fibre, vitamin C and potassium, and very few calories. Snacking on radishes, rather than high fat or sugary foods, helps fight hunger pangs but keeps weight off. They have also become more colourful.

Try these: Rainbow Mix consists of purple, yellow, white and red radishes and Watermelon radish has a whitish-green outer skin, but when cut it resembles a small watermelon with bright pink flesh. The flavour is mild, nutty and slightly sweet. Sow thickly into compost-enriched soil or use a good quality, fast-draining potting soil for container-grown radishes. Keep the soil moist during germination. Use the thinned out small leaves in salads. They are as tasty, but not as peppery as the radish root. Water regularly because radishes need to grow quickly if they are to be plump and crunchy.

Control those carbs this festive season and snack away without feeling guilty.

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