Processed foods sure can be convenient, but they’re not always the best option for a healthy diet. Food manufacturers will often ramp up the salt, fat, and sugar content of foods to appeal to our taste buds and convince us to keep snacking even when we’re not really hungry.
Breaking up with convenience foods doesn’t mean you’re looking at overtime in the kitchen. In fact, many of the things we often consider pantry staples can be made quickly and easily.
Here are three examples of super easy, healthy foods you can make at home:
1. Nut Butters
With the help of a high-powered blender, it’s incredibly easy to make peanut butter. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also make your own almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia butter, and tahini!
Considering that many nut and seed butters bought at the store can be costly, and are loaded with salt (and sometimes sugar too!) making your own at home can help cut your sodium intake and your grocery bill.
Homemade Nut Butter Tips:
- Choose whole nuts, unroasted, from a store with a high bulk turnover or join a bulk-buying club for discounts on locally grown, organic nuts and seeds.
- Store the nuts in the freezer or in sealed packages in a cool, dark, dry place.
- Store nut butter in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator and use as needed.
- Large batches can be frozen! Simply separate into reasonably sized jars or use food-safe bags.
- In some cases, soaking the nuts and seeds in water for a few hours before draining and then processing them can help release the oils and make it easier to produce a creamier butter. However, this does encourage mold growth so be sure to make smaller batches if soaking nuts first, always store in the refrigerator, and use within two weeks (unless the butter is stored in the freezer).
2. Dog Treats
If you look at the ingredients list on the bags of dog treats, you may be shocked to see such things as sugar, salt, and “animal byproducts,” (which could mean hooves, feathers, and any number of other things).
Keep fido happy and healthy, and save yourself some cash, by making your own dog treats at home. This can be as simple as cutting up some pieces of apple or partly steamed carrots, or making some basic cookies.
Recipe: Homemade Dog Biscuits
These dog treats are packed with healthy plant-protein (so they’re animal-friendly, not just dog-friendly!), full of antioxidants, and teeming with vitamins and minerals.
Simply choose your combination of dog-friendly ingredients (suggestions below) and avoid ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, cashews, onions, and raisins!
- Chickpea, rice, quinoa, and oat flour
- Nutritional yeast
- Peanut or almond butter
- Mashed blueberries
- Chopped parsley
- Add water and olive oil as needed to form a dough, roll to about a quarter-inch thick and cut out shapes as desired.
- Bake at 375 °F for approximately 15 minutes, cool, and then store the biscuits in an airtight container or freeze larger amounts in small batches for convenience.
3. Granola Bars
Pre-packaged granola bars tend to contain an astonishing amount of sugar and salt, and very little in the way of protein and other nutrients.
Homemade Granola Bars
You can make the bars a little healthier by choosing the fruit instead of maple syrup and adding a handful of roughly chopped almonds for extra protein, calcium, and crunch!
- 1½ cups of oats
- ¼ cup of nut butter (great work if you just made this yourself!)
- 1 cup of dates (processed into very fine pieces)
- 2 tbsp of ChiaFactors chia seeds
- ¼ cup of maple syrup (or a ½ cup of homemade apple sauce, mashed ripe banana, or pureed blueberries)
- Toast the oats briefly if desired (15 minutes at 350 °F should be sufficient)
- Add toasted oats to the dates, chia seeds, and any other seeds or nuts you’re using
- Slowly melt the peanut butter and maple syrup together before pouring over the oat mixture and stirring
- Add the mixture to an 8 x 8 baking dish lined with parchment paper and press it down flat and firm
- Cover with parchment and refrigerate for 20 minutes
- Using a sharp knife, chop into bars and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator (or freezer if it will take you more than a few days to eat all the bars)
If you use banana and peanut butter, you can also make another round of delicious and nutritious treats for your dog (cashews and some other nuts can be toxic to dogs, so stick to peanut butter!).
Gift Your Granola!
If you want to make a delicious gift, freeze the bars while they’re still in the pan, then drizzle some melted dark chocolate over the top. Return the pan to the freezer to set the chocolate, then cut into bars as desired. Pop the bars into Mason jars with personalized decorations and store in the freezer until a special occasion!
Make seasonal bars using peppermint chocolate, pumpkin pie spices and so forth, and make bespoke granola bars for the minimalist in your life who only accepts edible gifts.