Monday, April 27, 2009

Are You a Mystery Muncher? My Top Ten Healthy Reading Snacks

by Julia Buckley

Back in my careless twenties (how I miss them), I could munch on anything and never have to pay the piper (the piper, in this case, being the scale). My young metabolism took whatever I gave it, let me snack at all hours, and allowed me pretty much the same nice figure that I had before the cheating. As a veteran mystery reader, I indulged in all sorts of high calorie snacks--the kind that wouldn't interfere with turning the pages--a bowl of M and Ms, for example.

Now I still read mysteries, and I still love to munch while I'm reading, but I am a woman in her mid-forties whose doctor annoyingly reminds her that she can no longer, as Yeats once said, sway her leaves and flowers in the sun. What does that mean? It means I have high cholesterol, and Dr. Craig insists there is a link to this and my potentially early demise. So no more high cal snacks while I enjoy my suspenseful page turning.

Therefore, I have developed new favorites, which I will share with you in case you, too, are looking for healthier snack options. And, in case you are in danger of overestimating my importance in the world, I have not agreed to endorse anything for anyone. These are just things I took out of my pantry for my first foray into food photography. Keep this in mind if you're going to rate my effort. :)

Choice number one, in honor of the classical mystery, is tea (pictured above). Tea is said to have all sorts of health benefits, but I drink it for the taste and for the satisfying clink of china on china. Since the whole tone of this piece so far has been confessional, I will also admit here that I put too much sugar in my tea for it to fit exactly on a list of healthy foods, but tea is still potentially a great health drink.

#2: Diet Coke. I'll stick with beverages for choice two. This soda, which has no health advantages other than a calorie-free rating, is my one true addiction. It is highly portable, cold and sweet, and is a delicious accompaniment to the upcoming summer reading season. (Check out the new books by my fellow daughters!)

#3: The apple. Choice number three is nature's classic. I am not strictly trying to keep the doctor away (although there is that); apples are just good. The only danger here is that a good juicy bite can splash on the page. I like to occasionally cut the apple into eighths and provide a dish of peanut butter.

#4: Weight Watchers Bars. Speaking of peanut butter, Weight Watchers has a guilt free peanut butter indulgence called the ONE POINT BAR. Guess how many points it's worth? One point, as I see it, is a point away from no points, and that's a great place to be after indulging in a snack. They're good, too--a nice chewy taste of peanut butter to help me enjoy the book the way popcorn helps me enjoy a movie. (Do I enjoy a movie if I'm not eating popcorn? Not so much).

#5: Fiber Bars. I always avoided these because I thought of manufactured fiber foods as something rather horrifying. But, prodded by my ever-vigilant doctor, I tried them, and they are really good. It's like eating a candy bar with a lot less guilt and a lot more roughage. :) And of course it makes a great munchie while reading an Agatha Christie.

#6: Yogurt Raisins. The danger with these yummy snacks, which are mighty healthy and low in calories if you stick to the one tiny box, is that you will not stick to the one tiny box. I ate two of them WHILE I was doing my food photography, so you can see my level of control. :)

#7: Cornbread Crackers. I just discovered these recently, and they really do taste like cornbread. Are they healthy? Not exactly. But they'd make a great little side dish for a healthy meal (salad, chili), and a couple of them are a really delicious snack--I'd pair them with a meaty mystery like a Dashiell Hammett or a Raymond Chandler.

#8: Granola. You cannot go wrong with this snack. It is healthy, fibery, and enjoyably crunchy. You can munch it alone (although it does tend to dribble down one's front) or put it on vanilla yogurt, or even eat it as cereal in milk. It's versatile and delicious. I like it with almonds and raisins.

#9: String Cheese. I think string cheese was invented for children, but we all eat it, don't we? It's fun, and peeling it off bit by bit makes it last longer while you are on that really long chapter.

#10: Peanut butter and bananas. Okay, I've slipped peanut butter in there three times--I do like the stuff, and it's full of protein despite its fat. And the banana--what a perfect fruit! Its health benefits are too long to list here, but it is a truly beneficial snack, and the PB is just nutritional icing on that cake.

Now go read, snack and enjoy! Oh, and share your favorites, too!


Alteredcarbon said...

Love eating a bowl a cereal while reading. I know, I know, it means you have to eat at the table, but so what? It's worth it.

Julia Buckley said...

Cereal is great! And there's something about crunchy food that satisfies while one is being entertained. :)

Unknown said...

I always like the Light microwave popcorn, or celery w/a little peanut butter.

Julia Buckley said...

Catie--I love your socks. :)

Popcorn is great--as long as it's not buttered and doesn't leave residue. Not that I haven't occasionally gotten food (usually chocolate smudges) on my book.

I never could get excited about celery, but I know that it's a great snack.

iasa said...

It's been so long since I got to curl up and read more than two pages of a book, I can only fantasise about my reading food choices. I think I would have to go for Swedish Fish candy, roasted pumpkin seeds and blue chips with salsa.

Julia Buckley said...

Wow--fantastic snack choices! It is sad, isn't it, when we can only dream of curling up with a book? :)

Lonnie Cruse said...

Sigh, I USED to be able to eat anything as well, sigh. No longer. I've already discovered some of your treats, I'll have to try the others.

Sandra Parshall said...

Most cereals these days are loaded with sugar -- even the organic cereals. "Organic" has absolutely nothing to do with "healthy" or "low-cal" and you can feel virtuous while unknowingly scarfing down several tablespoons of fructose. (sigh) I love the little Kame brand Japanese rice crackers. Very crunchy. Even better with crunchy peanut butter on them. I love Jif extra-crunchy pb and have a pb sandwich (whole wheat bread) for lunch most days, often with a spoonful of Really Raw honey (made in Baltimore and sold at Whole Foods)dribbled on it. Our cat Gabriel is also wild about peanut butter.

I can happily eat the same thing for every meal day after day after day. I am not an adventurous eater. I'd rather eat low-fat cottage cheese for protein than meat. What was the question again? :-)

Julia Buckley said...

Lonnie, I know your pain.

Sandra, I have to admit, sugar has been the last thing to go--although I've really downsized those cravings, too. So much to give up . . .

But that peanut butter and honey sandwich sounds amazing. :)