Also key is protein. Sugary highs inevitably lead to crashes, while protein builds, sustains and nourishes the body. But must we lean on meat and dairy to provide the protein our kids need? Not necessarily. And, can plant-based snacks be truly palate-pleasing? Absolutely yes, and you don't have to take our word for it.
"There's an abundance of evidence showing that plant proteins such as whole grains, nuts and legumes are some of the healthiest protein-packed foods on the planet," asserts Eddie Garza, Senior Manager of Food & Nutrition for The Humane Society of the United States. Featured in Garza's new cookbook, ¡Salud! Vegan Mexican, the following snacks are nutritious, delicious and anything but boring.
Agave and Cinnamon Roasted Peanuts1 of 7
- 1 lb. raw, unsalted, shelled peanuts
- 1 tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tbsp. agave nectar
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- ¼ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss all the ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well to coat the peanuts. Spread evenly on the baking sheet and roast for 7-10 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.
Berry Banana Sushi2 of 7
- 1 large banana, sliced into rings
- ¼ cup smooth peanut butter
- ¼ cup of coconut flakes
- 1 cup blackberries, halved
Spread coconut flakes evenly on a medium plate. Using a butter knife, coat the outer edges of each banana ring in peanut butter. Use finger tips to roll the edges of each banana ring over coconut flakes, making sure to coat each ring evenly. Place coated banana rings on a plate and top each with a halved blackberry. Serve with chocolate sauce for dipping, if desired. (Photo: David Henao)
Watermelon Pizza3 of 7
- 1 medium seedless watermelon, ends trimmed, sliced into 6-8 rings
- 1 qt. blueberries
- 1 qt. blackberries, halved
- 1 ½ cups coconut flakes
Place one watermelon ring on a large plate and top with blueberries and blackberries. Generously sprinkle coconut flakes over watermelon and berries. Cut watermelon ring into 8 pie-shaped slices. Repeat process until all watermelon rings are dressed and sliced. Sprinkle with chopped, toasted nuts, if desired, for added crunch and protein. (Photo: David Henao)
Sweet Pea Guacamole4 of 7
- 1 large, ripe Hass avocado, peeled and pitted
- Juice of one lime
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
- ½ medium white onion, finely diced
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
In a large bowl, mash the avocado with a fork. Add the lime juice and salt and mix well. In a food processor, process the peas until creamy. Add to the avocado mixture along with the onion, jalapeño, tomato and cilantro. Mix gently and refrigerate for 20 minutes before serving.
Cheesy Sauce5 of 7
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp. Dijon or spicy brown mustard
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1. Soak cashews in hot water for 20 minutes.
2. While cashews are soaking, place butternut squash in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer 15-20 minutes, until soft. Add garlic cloves for the final 10 minutes of cooking.
3. Preheat a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Sauté onions for five minutes. Add cumin, chili powder and salt, and sauté for two additional minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Remove softened squash from water with a slotted spoon. Reserve approximately two cups of the cooking liquid.
5. Add the squash, garlic, and one cup of cooking liquid to a blender and purée. Add the soaked cashews along with enough additional liquid to keep the mixture moving. When the mixture is very smooth, add the onion mixture, nutritional yeast, mustard and vinegar. Blend until smooth. Spoon sauce over nachos or pasta or use as a veggie dip. (Photo: Melina Hammer)
Tropical Fruit Salad6 of 7
- 1 papaya, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 jicama, peeled and diced
- 2 mangos, peeled and diced
- Juice of 1 lime * Salt to taste
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tbsp. coconut shreds
Place the papaya, jicama and mangos in a large mixing bowl. Add the lime juice and salt and toss gently. Top with chili powder, cinnamon and coconut shreds. Add a handful of toasted nuts or pumpkin seeds for extra protein, if desired.