With about 90 percent of Americans snacking daily, snacks now account for as much as 25 percent of many Americans’ daily calories. Indeed, the snack category is growing, with the biggest gains in better-for-you options that blend taste and nutrition.
“The secret to smart snacking is to choose a bite that contains a combo of protein and fiber, a power pair that will help you feel full longer. And of course, you can’t forget about flavor – it has to taste good, too. That’s why tart cherries are such a great pick; they offer great taste coupled with nutrition,” says Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, and the Today show’s nutrition expert.
Bauer suggests these simple snack-time strategies:
* Don’t get caught in a snack attack. If you start searching for food after you’re already hungry, you’re more likely to make choices that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Plan and pre-package munchies in the morning or keep wholesome single-serve snacks on-hand so you’re prepared when hunger strikes.
* Go for nutrient-dense noshes. The right snacks with the right nutrients can help keep hunger in check until your next meal. Dried fruits, like anthocyanin-packed tart cherries, and nuts, including protein-rich almonds, team up to create a tasty, wholesome snack that will satisfy your appetite.
* Take time to taste. Don’t be a distracted snacker, eating while standing at the fridge, watching TV or multi-tasking. Mindless eating can lead to calorie overload. Instead, grab a snack, sit down, relax and enjoy every bite.
Sour and tart flavors are gaining popularity in a wide range of foods, including snacks. Tart cherries have emerged as a star ingredient in a range of new snack products, especially in dried form. Montmorency tart cherries, the most popular variety grown in the United States, are packed with anthocyanins – natural compounds that provide the ruby-red color, distinctive tart taste and potential health benefits.
“Dried tart cherries are fantastic on their own, but there’s something magical when you combine this distinctive-tasting fruit with other ingredients, like dark chocolate and nuts,” Bauer said.
While there are many pre-packaged tart cherry snacks available today, you can also make simple, delicious recipes at home, such as these Tart Cherry, Dark Chocolate and Cashew Granola Bars, which are bursting with flavor and sure to become a favorite go-to snack.
For more recipes and information on tart cherries, visit www.ChooseCherries.com.
Tart Cherry, Dark Chocolate & Cashew Granola Bars
Recipe courtesy of Kristina LaRue, LoveandZest.com
Total time: 25 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings: 10 bars
1 cup chopped raw cashews
1/2 cup chopped raw almonds
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup puffed rice cereal
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon whole golden flaxseeds
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1 tablespoon almond butter
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 8-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
Mix all dry ingredients together in bowl.
In small bowl, stir together syrup and almond butter until combined and gently fold into nut mixture until completely incorporated.
Transfer bar mixture to prepared baking dish.
Using extra sheet of parchment paper, press down on mixture to form to pan and ensure there are no spaces in mix.
Bake for 15 minutes; allow bars to cool completely in pan on wire drying rack. Place in fridge or freezer for faster cooling.
Remove parchment paper with cooled bars from pan and using serrated knife, slice into 10 even bars. Remove parchment paper from bottom of each bar.
Wrap each bar individually with plastic wrap to store for snack time. Place wrapped bars in airtight container and store on counter up to 5 days or in fridge up to 2 weeks.