Summer is just about over. The calendar may not say it quite yet, but it is back to school, back to real life for most. I have always been an after-school/ after-work snacker. Growing up, I had a snack when I got home before I started homework. In high school, it was to fuel before sports and in college, it was to stave off hunger until the dining hall opened.
I have found that as a grad student and as a working adult, the afternoon snack takes on a bit more significance, and because of this, it is an important part of my daily routine. For one, it keeps hunger at bay while dinner can be prepped. Cooking when I am hungry makes me way too impatient and by the time I eat, I am too ravenous to actually enjoy the meal. But more importantly, an afternoon snack acts as a bit of a "pause" in the day, a way to transition from the hectic work day to time at home.
When work is stressful, I find it challenging to leave work's mental and emotional baggage at the door and not allow it to infiltrate home life. A long commute can certainly help you as it physically distances yourself from work and allows time to elapse. My mother once told me that she and my father had the best dinner conversations when they each had an hour commute from work. When they lost their long commutes, she said that they lost some of those good dinner conversations because they were both mentally and emotionally "at work" even when they got home.
Another way to leave work at work is to STOP, sit down, and take a moment to have a snack. Often, our stress is compounded by fatigue and by hunger, and just sitting down to enjoy a bite can help us hit the reset button on both fronts. Then we can go about our day perhaps a little more at peace, whether the evening involves working out, making dinner, spending time with kids or significant others.
It may be tempting to grab one of those energy bars or a handful of packaged nibbles, but I have three snacks that are way too simple to make to not give them a try. AND all three can be made ahead of time! As much as I love Larabars and some of the other fruit and nut bars that contain simple, whole ingredients, they are also pretty pricey. My suggestions here are affordable, nutritious, and easy options in which you have all of the control over the ingredients. There is a sweet treat, a savory treat, and one that is a little bit of both for those days when you cannot decide.
What were your favorite snacks as a kid and what are your favorite snacks now?
Sweet: Dates Stuffed with Nut Butter + Little Goodies
Savory: Hard-Boiled Eggs with Pesto
A Little Bit of Both: Roasted Sweet Potato with Tahini, Za'atar Spiced Chickpeas, and Sea Salt
Nut Butter Stuffed Dates: Make a lengthwise slit into a medjool or other large, plump date and remove the pit. Fill with your favorite nut butter (like my Toasted Coconut and Almond Butter) and maybe a few extras like toasted nuts, chocolate chips, ground cinnamon, or shredded coconut. Gently squeeze and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Hard-boiled Eggs: Place the eggs in a pot and add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil, cover with a lid, and remove pot from the heat. Allow eggs to sit 9 minutes. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water. Place eggs in a bowl of ice water and allow to cool. Eggs can be stored in refrigerator for up to a week. To use, peel the eggs carefully. I use a spoon to slip under the thin skin just beneath the shell to slide the shell off. Drizzle with a little homemade pesto like my Kale Pesto or sub half kale and half basil in the recipe for an herby, vitamin-rich drizzle.
Baked Sweet Potatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment to make clean up a bit easier. Scrub small to medium sized sweet potatoes clean. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the potatoes. Potatoes will be done when a knife slips easily through skin to center. Make a slit lengthwise and stuff with whatever you choose! Some suggestions: roasted chickpeas (like my Crisped Chickpeas), nut butter, tahini, cheese, toasted nuts, yogurt, sea salt, etc.