Healthy (and fun) Japanese snacks – Yoshiko Roth-Hidalgo

Almond Fish SnackI’ve always been a snacker (Japan is THE snack paradise on earth!), but with pregnancy, healthy snacking has developed into a passion for me.  When you’re in it for 9 months, day in day out, it’s not just about how much nutrition a snack packs, but how fun, tasty, and yet easy it is.  The good old healthy stand-byes of fruits, nuts and wholegrain crackers are always great, but here are some very cool (Japanese) alternatives that combine the healthful side of Japanese cuisine with fun and convenience:

1) Fried Hajiki Mame, a.k.a. Fava Beans or Broad Beans: Fried and packed for snacking, Hajiki Mame are super hearty and with a satisfying crunch.  Packed with protein, iron and fiber, they are also a good source of Vitamin A and potassium.  In addition, they are rich in L-dopa, a precursor of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in the brain for activities including memory and energy – crucial when you’re going through pregnancy-induced energy highs and lows.

2)      Almond plus dried fish, conveniently packaged into tiny little servings.  Three little packs make up one full serving that has only 130 calories but packs 18% of your calcium need, 6 grams of sugar and a whopping 13g of protein.  Even better:  Get the ones without added salt (water retention is a problem during pregnancy, so avoiding too much sodium is key!)

3) My absolute favorite:  “Pucchi Pori Natto”! If you’re familiar with Japanese food, you’ve probably heard of Natto, the fermented stinky soy beans served over hot rice that produce sticky strings and that most non-Japanese are a bit afraid of.  It’s an acquired taste, but it is ultra-ultra healthy (and actually very tasty).  Natto contains nattokinase, an enzyme which has been shown to promote healthy blood flow and helps prevent heart disease, amongst other wonders.  Because of its smell and texture, it’s not really suitable as a quick snack on–the-go, so there is dried Natto, which combines the pungent taste but has a reduced smelliness factor and none of the messiness.  In “Pucchi Pori Natto”, dried Natto is combined with dried fish and almonds and comes either in soy sauce flavor or ume flavor.  A healthy snack doesn’t get better than this!  A whole 19 g package contains only 110 calories, yet packs 6 grams of protein and only 5 grams of sugar.

Look for these snacks at your Japanese or Asian grocery store!

Snack Food for the Busy! – Jill Sung

dried gooseberriesSometimes when my plate is full, and my schedule is too jam-packed, I want to snack, but don’t have the time to make anything. When heading to work, I just grab and go! I’ve done the old standbys like baby carrots (dipped in hummus is tasty), grapes, grape tomatoes, granola, etc. But lately, some nuts and new dried fruits have caught my eye…

“raw” cashews – full of  “good fats” with an optimal healthy fat ratio of 1:2:1 for saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, they are less “fatty” than peanuts, walnuts, pecans, and almonds. Filled with phytosterols, copper and magnesium, cashews have been found in large health studies to kill bacteria often found in the mouth, decrease gallstone disease risk by 25% in women, lower the risk of developing type II diabetes and protect from diabetes complications by supporting healthy levels of triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.

Eat 1/4 cup, 1-4 times a week. Less than 200 calories.

gooseberries – each one of these sweet and tart berries has more antioxidant vitamin C than an entire orange! If you can take the tartness, eat alone, or mix with nuts, but these berries are filled with anti-inflammatory bioflavanoids, soluble dietary fiber-filled pectin, and vitamins A and C. I love that these Incan fruits are dried with no added sugar or juices.

Eat 1 oz, 1-4 times a week. ~80 calories per oz.

For other easy snacks, try yogurt with natural preserves or fruit and agave nectar. Until the next nibble! Enjoy!

Snack Food that Keeps Me Going – Metta Murdaya

I was attending an acroyoga workshop in Tucson, AZ when I was turned onto this healthy, tasty treat – filling enough to cut hunger and give me energy to practice for hours, but light enough to not weigh me down. Gives me plenty of energy and brainpower to focus on running a skincare company too! An unconventional combo, it was a seaweed wrap with avocado, leafy salad veggies and sprinkled with a seasoning blend of nutritional yeast, black sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sea salt. Absolutely delicious, it has a lovely savory flavor from the blend of sea salt and nutritional yeast (which contains a chock full of Vitamin B), rich, buttery avocado (containing good fats,) and leafy greens for a filling, but light, vitamin packed crunch. (I use spinach or a spring mix, but you can mix it up with anything.) It’s so easy to make too – just pre-mix the seasonings in a jar, keep it at home or take to work – which I do. If you are what you eat, I’ll take the benefits of this ingredient combo!

Seasoning mix (This is totally to taste, so adjust according to yours):
* Nutritional Yeast – 1 cup
* Sea Salt – Add so a taste of the yeast/salt combo tastes almost but not as salty as a bouillon cube. Remember you’re sprinkling this on mild flavored foods.
* Pumpkin Seeds – ¼ cup (I like lots of seeds, so per small teaspoon, I get about 3-seeds in my mix.)
* Black Sesame Seeds – 3 tablespoons

Mix it all up, and store in an airtight container, like a used jam jar.
To make the roll, lay out a sheet of seaweed, put on some avocado slices, leafy greens, and sprinkle about 1 full teaspoon of the seasoning on it, roll and eat away! I love it cuz I can customize it to what I have. If I need something a little more hearty, I’ll add some Monterey Jack cheese to it, or an egg. I’ve even used tofu as well. Get creative! It’s delicious, healthy, so easy to make, and pretty hard to get wrong. Enjoy!!