Healthy Snacks

Pan de Higo: almond fig balls

It's going to be yum, yum.

In response to the need for healthy snack choices I have decided to devote this post to healthy snacking. I am sharing some of my favorites and some that were volunteered in a survey that I have been doing with my clients, friends and family. I have also mined the wealth of ideas from some of my favorite healthy food blogs like Just Eat It, Enlightened Cooking and Fix Me A Snack with live links at the end of their recipes so that you can visit these blogs with just a click. I also review some excellent ready-made choices. I will continue with healthy snacks as a regular ongoing series at HEALTH COACH. Please share your favorite healthy snacks with us.

One of the valuable lessons that I learned in my struggles with my love of carbohydrates (read Confessions of a Carb Addict, Part Two of the Habit series), is that the more processed, fatty, salty and sugary the snacks consumed, the more it messes with the taste, inclination and desire for healthy choices.

Queijo de Figo
Spanish Almond Fig Balls (Pan de Higo)
1/2 c whole almonds , toasted
2 c pack dried whole figs , hard stalk and centre of base removed
1/3 c dried apricots , chopped into small pieces
1/4 c dried cranberries
1 t. brandy
1 t. clear honey
1 t. ground cloves
1/2 c sesame seeds , toasted

Whizz the almonds in a food processor until most are finely chopped, then tip into a large bowl. Roughly chop the figs, then whizz to a smooth sticky paste. Scrape onto the almonds then, using your hands, mix together well with the dried fruit, brandy, honey and cloves.

Divide the mixture into 6 and roll into balls. Tip the sesame seeds onto a tray, then roll the balls in them until covered. Cover the tray loosely with a clean tea towel, then leave the fig balls to dry for a week before packaging. Will keep in a cool place for 2 months. Delicious with cheese and oatcakes.
Makes 6 balls
Prep time: 20 minutes

No-Bake Oatmeal Energy Bars with Cherries and Almonds
An easy-as-can-be, no-bake bar, reminiscent of oatmeal cookies and studded with dried cherries and almonds (or the fruits and nuts/seeds of your choice).
2 and 1/2 c old-fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
1/2 c toasted wheat germ 
1/2 c dried nonfat milk powder
1/2 c dried cherries, blueberries, or other dried fruit, coarsely chopped
1/2 c lightly salted roasted almonds (or other roasted or toasted nuts or seeds)
1 c natural-style nut or seed butter (e.g., peanut, cashew, almond, or tahini)
3/4 c honey
1/3 c molasses (not black strap)
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t salt

Line a 9x9-inch, lightly-oiled, square baking dish with parchment.

In a medium bowl mix the oatmeal, wheat germ, milk powder, dried fruit and nuts; set aside.

Place the nut butter, honey and molasses in a large heavy saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly, melted and smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Mix in the cereal mixture (mix until well blended and all of the oat mixture is coated).

Transfer mixture to prepared pan. Using a large square of wax paper or foil, very firmly press mixture down into pan to compact.Cool completely. Remove bars using parchment overhang and then cut into 16 bars or squares. Tightly wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Store the wrapped bars in a plastic zip-top bag in the refrigerator.

VEGAN No-Bake Oatmeal Energy Bars with Cherries and Almonds:
Use brown rice syrup in place of the honey and soy powder in place of the milk powder.
Yield: 16 Bars
Prep time: 30 minutes 

Wheatgerm Peanut Butter Balls
1/2 c peanut butter
1/4 c honey
1/2 c nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 c toasted wheatgerm
1/4 c raisins (optional)
fine coconut flakes, unsweetened: toasted

Preheat oven 275 degrees. Toast wheatgerm on an un-oiled cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Toast coconut until lightly golden. Mix all ingredients. Roll into balls. Roll balls in the toasted coconut flakes.
Yield: 20-30 balls
Prep time: 20 minutes 

Almond Butter Balls
3/4 c powdered milk
1/2 c crispy brown rice cereal
2 T wheat germ
2 T ground flax seed (optional)
1/4 t salt
1/2 c unsalted almond butter
1/4 c honey
1 t vanilla extract

In a small mixing bowl, stir the powdered milk, cereal, wheat germ, flaxseed, and salt until combined. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, stir the almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract with a rubber spatula until combined. Add the powdered milk mixture and stir until uniform.

The mixture may be on the crumbly side. To form into balls, take a tablespoon of the mixture and squeeze it with your hands more than roll it. I pass it back and forth between my hands squeezing and rolling gently with my fingers as I pass. This might be tough for kids to master. If the mixture is too crumbly, add more of something gooey such as honey or even a tablespoon of vegetable, coconut, or flax oil.

Serve or store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw for a couple minutes before serving.
Yield: 30 balls
Prep-time: 20 minutes

Spicy, Herb-Roasted Nuts 
1 1/2 c almonds
1 1/2 c walnut halves
1 c hazelnuts or cashews
1 c pecan halves
1/2 c maple syrup
1/4 t cayenne
1 1/2 t chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 1/2 t chopped fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 t chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 t chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 t chopped fresh savory leaves
1 1/2 t chopped fresh marjoram leaves
3 T olive oil
1 t kosher salt or more

Mix the nuts, maple syrup, cayenne, fresh chopped herbs and the oil. Put the nut mixture in a 10 by 15 inch rimmed pan and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a 300 degree oven, stirring occasionally until all the liquid evaporates and the nuts are golden under the skin (break open to test) about 45 minutes. Cool, taste and add more salt if desired. 
Yield: 5 cups
Prep time 5 minutes
Bake time 20-30 minutes

Honey Roasted Pecans
1 1/2 c raw pecans
1-1 1/2 T honey
1/8 t salt, plus more to finish

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread nuts out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Transfer warm nuts to a medium bowl. Quickly drizzle the honey and salt over the nuts and stir until they are well coated. Return the coated nuts to the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, rotating once. I took them out of the oven when it smelled like the honey was starting to caramelize – a tiny bit smokey. Remove the nuts from the oven, sprinkle on a pinch of salt, and quickly separate any clumps as the honey will harden as the nuts cool. Allow to cool completely and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups nuts (easily doubled)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 1 1/2 hours

Toasted Sunflower Seeds with Cayenne and Soy Sauce
1 c sunflower seeds
3 T soy sauce
1/2 t ground cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce & cayenne. In a large dry non-stick fry pan toast sunflower seeds for 5-10 mins or until they start to turn golden brown. Add soy sauce & cayenne. 

Stir quickly to coat all seeds. Keep stirring until all seeds are coated and there is no liquid left. 
Yield: 1 cup  
Prep time: 10 minutes

Nuts and seeds are highly perishable because of the oil content. I recommend that you keep them stored in the fridge or freezer at all times. 

Pimento Cheese with Homemade Saltine Crackers
For the cheese: 
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 of one roasted red pepper from a jar, rinsed and patted dry
2 T cream cheese
1 T mayonnaise
Pinch salt

Place the cheddar, red pepper, cream cheese, mayonnaise and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for about 60 seconds, pausing once to scrap down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, or until the mixture is smooth. Serve or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yield: 1 cup
Prep-time: 10 minutes

For the crackers:
Inspired by a recipe for Homemade Saltines at Just eat it
3/4 c white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
6 T cold butter, cut into chunks
1/2 to 2/3 c cold water
Flaky sea salt or kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the flours, salt and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for a 5 – 10 seconds. Add the chunks of butter to the flour mixture. Pulse for 5 – 10 seconds until the butter is broken down into large crumb-sized pieces. With the processor running, slowly pour in the water stopping when the dough is uniformly wet. It will not form into a ball, but some of the dough may gather into clumps.

Remove the dough from the food processor. With your hands, work it into a ball. Take a handful of dough from the ball and roll it out with a rolling pin on a well-floured work surface. Roll it out to 1/16 of an inch or as thin as you can get it. Try to keep your thickness uniform so the crackers will bake evenly.

Cut the rolled dough into rectangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick each cracker two or three times with a fork and sprinkle liberally with salt.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to turn a golden brown, rotating once during baking. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve or store in an airtight container.Yield: 100 crackers
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Bake-time: 8 minutes

Almond Milk
2 c almonds 
4 c water
1 vanilla bean or 1 t pure vanilla extract

1. Soak almonds and vanilla bean overnight.
2. Discard soaking water and rinse almonds.
3. Blend almonds, water and vanilla. 
4. Strain. (I don't strain it)
5. Serve.
Yield: 6 cups

I love almond milk with added Fig Pep: 

FIG PEP new research has shown figs to be rich in polyphenols and fiber. According to Pliny, the Roman writer, "Figs increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with few wrinkles". This delicious, alkaline syrup, made with black mission figs, is rich with naturally occurring electrolytes and essential nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. Look for fig pep in health food stores and departments and specialty shops.

Crispy Baked Kale and Leek Chips
1 bunch of kale, washed, dried and cut into large pieces
4 leeks
2 T. olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss kale and leeks with oil and salt, place on baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes until crispy. I love kale and leek chips as much as I love potato chips, they're that delicious!


Raspberry Yogurt Parfait 

This snack is always a stalwart friend and I never tire of it. Great as an easy, fancy dessert in a crunch. 

I buy frozen raspberries and layer the berries with balkan-style vanilla yogurt (multiple layers) in the morning in a glass bowl or individual parfait glasses (to see the layers) if I am entertaining. Set in the refrigerator. After dinner it is perfectly ready to eat.

Raspberry Lime Yogurt Tart
1 1/4 c graham crackers, crushed 
1/4 c chopped nuts 
5 T melted butter 
2 c non-fat Balkan-style yogurt 
2 T honey 
zest of 1 lime 
1 pint raspberries 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, nuts, and sugar and mix well. Add melted butter and mix until all crumbs are coated. Press into a 9" tart pan with removable bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until crust is set. Let cool and fill. Stir honey and lime zest into yogurt. Pour into crust and top with fresh raspberries. Serves 8

Ready Made Snacks

Snapea Crisps 

Nothing but baked sugar snap peas, lightly salted.

Also available in Caesar salad flavour.

Essene or Manna bread is made with a variety of sprouted grains. No leavening agents or any other additives. Moist and satisfying and extremely healthy. My favorite is the sun seed with a variety of seeds and nuts including poppy seeds. Another favorite is the fruit and nut with dates, almonds and cinnamon. It tastes like a rich fruit cake. I love to eat it with a slice of havarti cheese and an apple. It is available from the freezer section of health food stores.

Make Your Own Sprouted Spelt Essene Bread

To Sprout Spelt:
Place your spelt in a jar or bowl filled with double the amount of water to grain. Soak this for12 hours or overnight. In the morning or after the 12 hours, rinse the grain in a colander. 
Now every 8 hours rinse the grain with water (or spray the water with water from a spray bottle to keep the grains in good condition to sprout). Mix the grains around a bit so all the grains get some water. Keep rinsing or spraying the grain every 8 hours for 2-3 days and you should begin to see little sprouts. When the sprouts have become 1/3- 1/2 length of the grain, its time to make your essene bread.
Essene Bread:
Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Grind your sprouted spelt in a food processor until it begins to clump together and almost form a dough. Take the mixture out and make a bread shaped ball with it. Oil a crock pot or bread tin and place the mixture into the the container to be cooked. 
Cook your bread on a very low setting for 2-3 hours until the outside is firm to the touch and does not bounce back. Or you can cook your bread in a dehydrator for a lot longer on an even lower setting for about 6 hours. Yield: 1 loaf of bread

Are Nutritional Food Labels Accurate?

In my preliminary research the evidence indicates that the current system of evaluating the nutritional (fat, fibre, carbohydrate, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins and minerals) and caloric content and the health of a food product is not accurate. 

Both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allow a 5 gram discrepancy and as much as a 20% difference between the amounts listed on the nutritional food label and the actual percentage in the food product. The food manufacturer is ultimately in control of both the healthfulness of a product and the nutritional information on the label. 

The accuracy of this information and the health of food products is not monitored or enforced closely enough by either the CFIA or the FDA. The majority of food tests conducted by these government public interest organizations have revealed these inaccuracies. 

What does this mean for us? HEALTH COACH recommends that you make it yourself. The healthy snack ideas presented in this post take between 5-30 minutes of preparation time for high yield and value at a fraction of what you would pay to have it ready-made. Remember, you decide the kind of life that you live and we create the world we live in. Do you really want to live a life that does not give you time for your health?

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has been working on the issue of accurate nutritional food labeling, giving the Canadian government proposals for accurate accounting and representation of food products by manufacturers. Here is a live link to CSPI:


  1. Great site Valerie thanks for reminding me how to make almond milk and cashew milk.This site makes me want to start cooking or eating no sure which.Great Job. Christopher

  2. Thanks for the tips! I need to start doing my own healthy snacks. Very informative!


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