9 healthy, salty snacks
Satisfy your savoury cravings with these salty but good-for-you treats
You’re the type that passes on the cookies and cake, heading straight for the salty stuff. In fact, your fantasy indulgence is a bowl of potato chips, pretzels or salted peanuts. But if you find yourself turning that salty fantasy into a reality a little too often, it’s probably high time to shake things up with healthier habits. Here are a few foods that are either healthy alternatives, or ways to make your sodium-laden favourites a little healthier.
For those who tried olives a long time ago and didn’t like them, olives are worth giving another go, especially considering they contain fibre and essential vitamins. Experiment with different varieties: You might find black olives milder than the green ones, for example, or that the tiny crisp Picholine variety from France is more to your liking than the soft stuffed Manzanillas you are probably familiar with. Olives are usually preserved with salt, but you can reduce the sodium by rinsing them under cold water, says Montreal-based registered dietitian Kim Arrey.
2. Cucumbers and sea salt
Slice up a field or English cucumber, and dash a little salt over it for a quick salty fix. Bonus: Your veggie-averse kids might even take a liking to them. “Use sea salt,” Arrey says. “It tastes saltier so you use a little bit less, and you’ll actually have a lower intake of sodium.” She’s even met people that like to eat apple slices with a little salt sprinkled over them. You could do the same with carrot, red bell pepper slices or celery.
Potato chip addicts trying to cut back might find that crackers can take the edge off a strong craving. But the key to finding a healthier cracker is looking for one that has the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s “Health Check” label, says Arrey, because one of the criteria for earning this designation is lowered sodium content. “You can take those [Health Check-labelled] crackers if you like them, or use its nutrition label as a basis to check others against,” she says. If you find another box that’s even lower in salt than the Health Check-approved brand, then you know you’re good to go, she says.
When eaten in moderation, many nuts qualify as bona fide superfoods. For example, almonds contain good amounts of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The problem is getting carried away with salted versions-it’s much harder to gorge on unsalted nuts, and many salted varieties also come with unhealthy added oil. Even so, the salt doesn’t negate the nutrients, Arrey says. Experiment with adding a light dusting of a gourmet sea salt such as Maldon or a fleur de sel to unsalted nuts and even roasting them yourself to enhance the flavour instead of purchasing the pre-salted kind. Try our recipe for Spiced Almonds.
Airy, crunchy and delightfully versatile, popcorn can be an ideal salty snack. “Popcorn itself is not very high in naturally occurring sodium,” says Arrey, and it’s a whole grain. The key to keeping it extra-healthy is to pop it at home and add salt to taste. “If you put salt on yourself, typically you’ll put on less than buying something that’s salted,” she says, which is a phenomenon that holds for most of the foods you prepare at home.
6. DIY spicy cereal mix
Unsweetened or low-sugar cereals can be baked up into a do-it-yourself snack mix of epic tastiness. One such recipe could include a combo of Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, garlic powder, chili powder and a sprinkling of salt poured over cereal, mixed well and then baked. Try our recipe for an Antioxidant Almond Snack Mix or Indian Spiced Party Mix.
7. Sardines and crackers
Ok, tiny fish might not be everyone’s ideal snack. “Not too many people will eat sardines alone,” says Arrey. “But they will eat them with crackers,” she says, referring to sardines of the canned variety. For those who find them palatable, they are a healthy dietary addition. These tiny fish are high in all-important omega-3s, not to mention calcium and protein. They are also low in mercury because they are a small fish. Packed sardines tend to be salty on their own, so pair them with a lower-sodium cracker.
8. Potato chips
No, not a health food exactly, but some snackers just won’t be deterred from their favourite salty treat. In that case, Arrey says to opt for real potato chips instead of potato-flour ones. “There’s a difference between them with how fast you feel full,” she says, with real potatoes providing better satisfaction. “That’s because they are less refined than the potato-flour chips.” (Potato-flour chips are usually, but not always, sold in a can instead of a bag.) For a healthier chip, “you can find potato chips made with olive oil, and some are reduced in sodium,” she says. And to reduce portion size, make sure to share.
9. Your favourite snack, rubbed, rinsed or dabbed
For the salt aficionado dedicated to eating healthier, you’ll still likely be faced with something salty and unvirtuous you just can’t resist. If you’re indulging, remember chips, nuts, pretzels and foods with visible grains of salt can be rubbed with a napkin to remove some of the salt. Likewise, the top of a pizza slice can be dabbed with a napkin to lift off some excess oil. And many canned, jarred and tinned foods, such as the above-mentioned olives, can be vigorously rinsed to remove 30 to 50 percent of the sodium, Arrey says.