Vegetable Snacks (Instead Of Chips)

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Why vegetable snacks? You can have the taste and enjoyment of nachos without junk food when you put spread, dip, or salsa on veggies instead of chips!

Vegetable Plate

All you need:

  • Offbeat vegetables
  • Spreads chosen for healthy fats and spices

You'll find you can eat more vegetables and less junk food at the same time.


Why vegetable snacks?

Sad but true: Crackers and tortilla chips are junk food. They have nearly no nutritional value. They are frequently made with MSG and always made with large amounts of salt. They contain harmful trans fat and questionable vegetable oils.

For practical purposes, chips and crackers can't be made without fat. There do exist very dry, flat crackers with no fat or taste enhancers, but you'll know them if you come across them: they are tasteless. (And they still have almost no nutritional value.)

Vegetables, on the other hand, contain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals ("plant chemicals"). They have natural salt levels and very low fat.

It's true that some vegetables have a sharp taste. You may enjoy that taste.

But if you think you don't like the taste of plain, raw vegetables, you won't even notice their taste when you add a spicy spread. You'll just enjoy the texture of the veggies and the taste of a  healthy spread.


Choosing the veg

Options include:

  • Chip-shaped vegetables
  • Boat-shaped leaves
  • Slices
  • Florets
  • Sticks

Chips

Chip-shaped vegetables are heavy, stiff, and naturally scoop-shaped.

Two great chips are: red (purple) cabbage and bell peppers.

Raw cabbage is an anti-cancer vegetable. That is, even more anti-cancer than other vegetables! It is high in vitamins K and C as well as in anti-cancer phytochemicals. Purple cabbage also contains the antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins.

  • Purple cabbage: Cut the leaves into triangular tortilla-chip shapes (or do what I do--just cut the leaves into vaguely chip-sized chunks)
  • Bell pepper: Cut in any fashion. These pieces will also be natural scoops.

Boats

Boat-shaped leaves mean no cutting required. Just pull off the leaves (and maybe tear them in half). Two leafy vegetables, Belgian endive and Romaine lettuce, have stiff leaves shaped like canoes.

Belgian endive is a bit pricy but yields naturally canoe-shaped leaves for hors d'oeuvres. It is a small (six-inch) bullet-shaped head of leaves, grown underground or indoors to keep it white.

Romaine lettuce is famous for being more nutritious than regular "iceberg" lettuce. It contains beta-carotene, vitamins K and C, and folate. The heads are about 12" long; each leaf has a stiff spine.

  • Belgian endive: Cut off the base. Pull the leaves from the head.
  • Romain lettuce: Pull leaves from the head; use small leaves whole and tear others into pieces.

Slices

Many vegetables slice quickly! The slices make tiny round plates for spread.

Florets and sticks

Old stand-bys! You may be able to buy these already cut and cleaned, in plastic bags or in your supermarket's deli.

  • Celery sticks
  • Carrot sticks
  • Broccoli florets
  • Cauliflower florets

Choosing the dip

The dip is not an afterthought. This is the taste you are after! And it's an opportunity to make vegetable snacks even healthier.

Making vegetable snacks healthier

With the dip, you can add extra healthy food: vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, and cheese.

When you eat healthy fats along with vegetables, the veggies release more of their nutrients to your body. Healthy fats like olives, avocados, nuts, seeds, yogurt, and cheese will increase the vegetables' nutrition.

Of course, you can also use a low-fat salsa or salad for your spread, made of chopped vegetables and spices.

Some ideas

Mexican:

  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Bean paste
  • Cheese

Middle Eastern:

  • Hummus
  • Tahini
  • Yogurt
  • Cucumber salad
  • Tabouli

Nut Butters (nuts ground up into a spread):

  • Almond butter
  • Cashew butter
  • Peanut butter

Ingredients

Look for: olive oil, avocado, sesame, coconut, flax, nuts, butter, yogurt, and cheese.

Look for real, named spices, such as: cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, and more.

Vegetable ingredients frequently include beans, cucumbers, tomato, and more.

Avoid: corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, chemical-sounding ingredients.

Real vs. FAKE

Carefully read the ingredients list on the label. Is it made primarily with food that you recognize? You want to see "real food" ingredients.

Your best bet will be the spreads, dips, salsas, and salads that are made in grocery stores and sold in its deli. Natural food stores and higher-end grocery stores often have excellent delis.

By reading labels on commercial brands, you should be able to find gourmet or organic brands that also contain real food, but it requires careful search in better stores. Always check the ingredients list.

Read the ingredients list on a tub made by a big food company. You will not necessarily get the food you think you are getting. You will get trans fat and chemicals.

You will see "cheese food" that contains no cheese. You will see "guacamole" that contains no avocados. These fake foods are made mostly from artificial fats and flavor chemicals.

Many of these dips are easy to make at home with the right equipment. But by simply studying the ingredients it is often easy to make something similar inexpensively with fresh ingredients, with or without special kitchen equipment.


Example: Guacamole

"Guacamole" means mashed avocado with spices and chopped vegetables. But if you see a tub of guacamole in the store, you need to read its ingredients list to find out if it really guacamole or not.

Fake Guacamole

Here are the ingredients lists that you can read on the label of two major brands.

Remember that the ingredients are listed according to the amount in the product: the main ingredient first, the next largest ingredient second, and so on.

This fake guacamole by Kraft consists almost entirely of trans fat (two kinds of partially hydrogenated oils) and high-fructose corn syrup. There is only a small amount of avocado. There are gums, preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and MSG under several names.

Kraft Dips Guacamole Snack Dip
Water, Coconut Oil Partially Hydrogenated and, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Corn Syrup, Whey Protein Concentrate from milk, Contains less than 22% of Potato(es), Salt, Avocado(s), Soy Flour Defatted, Monosodium Glutamate, Tomato(es), Sodium Caseinate, Vinegar, Lactic Acid, Onion(s), Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Gelatin, Xanthan Gum, Carob Bean Gum, Mono and Diglycerides, with Spice(s), Sodium Benzoate and, Potassium Sorbate As Preservatives, Garlic, Sodium Phosphate, Citric Acid, Yellow 6, Color(s) Artificial, Flavor(s) Artificial, Blue 1, Yellow 5

This second fake guacamole is a paste made mostly of skim milk, corn oil, "food starch," and tomato paste. There is a tiny amount of "avocado powder"--probably less avocado powder than sugar. There are gums, preservatives, artificial colors, natural AND artificial flavors, and MSG under several names, for a total of 44 ingredients.

Herr's Guacamole Snack Dip
Milk Skim, Corn Oil, Food Starch Modified, Tomato(es) Paste, Salt, Contains less than 22% of Corn Syrup High Fructose, Onion(s) Dehydrated, Cellulose Gum, Gelatin, Guar Gum, Flavor(s) Artificial, Pepper(s) Bell Red Dried, Sodium Benzoate Preservative, Flavor(s) Natural, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Cream Cheese (Milk Cultured Pasteurized and, Cream, Stabilizer [Xanthan Gum and/or, Carob Bean Gum and/or, Guar Gum] ) , Glucono-Delta-Lactone, Cellulose Gel, Vinegar, Lactic Acid, Sodium Phosphate, Citric Acid, Soy Protein Hydrolyzed, Color(s), Garlic Powder, Malt Extract, Caramel Color, Lime Juice, Maltodextrin, Monosodium Glutamate, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Sugar, Tamarind, Mono and Diglycerides, Avocado(s) Powder, Soy Sauce Solids, Wheat Fermented

These are absolutely unhealthy concoctions that should never be eaten by anyone. Without the artificial flavors and MSG, they would be tasteless.

Real

Here are two specialty brand guacamoles. They are mostly avocados and other real foods.

However, they are preserved with sugar, citric acid, and synthetic Vitamin C; and they contain a kind of gum for gumminess.

Cabo Fresh Authentic Guacamole
Hass Avocados, Salt, Evaporated Cane Juice, Red Bell Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Minced Onion, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Jalapeno Peppers, Cilantro

Yucatan Organic Guacamole
Organic Hass Avocados, Sea Salt, Organic Onion, Organic Garlic Powder, Organic Sugar, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Xanthan Gum, Organic Jalapeno Peppers, Citric Acid

Fresh

This is the ingredients list from a freshly-made deli guacamole that includes salsa. There are no preservatives or gums; there is no sugar. There are lots of spices and peppers!

Outpost Guacamole
Organic Avocoado, Organic Tomato, Organic Onion, Organic Cilantro, Organic Lime Juice, Jalepeno Pepper, Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Salsa de Norte (Organic Onions, Organic Jalapeno Peppers, Garlic Puree [Organic Garlic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil], Organic Parsley, Organic Cilantro, Organic Tomato Sauce, Organic Orange Juice, Organic Tomatoes, Sea Salt, Cumin, Coriander, Chipotle Peppers)

And, guacamole is not difficult to make at home, even using only a fork to mash the avocados. Avocados are very mashable. Making it at home, you can include the exact spices and veggies that you want. Here is an easy guacamole recipe.


Happy crunching!







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