With Dietitian Eve Kalinik
It’s not uncommon to feel a bit uninspired by our usual snack options. Even more challenging to find ones that we think will satisfy our taste buds and tickle the fancy of our gut microbiota too. But I promise there are delicious and simple ways to do just that.
In fact, a snack can be a really easy way to gently nudge up our overall fibre intake, which is important given the role fibre plays in supporting our gut health. Including a snack in your daily routine can provide that little bit of energy to push through the morning or afternoon, depending on when you tend to have a slump, and it can also give us with a mini break away from meetings, emails etc.
We do need to be mindful about over-snacking, however, since our gut microbiota need rest breaks between meals. We also have different sets of microbes that help us to absorb food and those that help to manage inflammation. The stress of the working day can easily find us mindlessly nibbling away so my advice is to schedule in your lunch and snack break like you would important meetings so that you are not constantly gravitating towards the cupboard/fridge.
So, what makes a good gut snack?
- Rich in fibre –fibre provides food and fuel for our gut microbes so it is important that we get enough (roughly 30g). Equally, diversity in our intake is key, as different types of fibre feed different microbes in the gut and as current research suggests a more diverse gut microbiota = a healthier gut microbiota.
- Nutrient dense – snacks are also a way to sneak in a few more polyphenols which are special plant chemicals that also help to enrich the gut microbiota. This is what gives a lot of plants their colour. The other thing about having a snack with more ‘bang for buck’ in terms of its nutritional density is that it is more satiating so you are less likely to be hungry soon after finishing.
- Delicious! – which sometimes we forgo in way of being ‘healthy’ but the two are not juxtaposed and I’ve got three beauties that demonstrate this perfectly. Here we go…
PEA, MINT & FETA SMASH
This is bursting with flavour, fibre and polyphenols from the peas and olive oil and will have you and your gut microbiota nicely satisfied. Moreover, the addition of feta provides a natural source of beneficial bacteria that can help to create balance and harmony in your gut. I love to serve this on sourdough toasts, but it’s also equally delicious scooped up with steamed batons of carrots or courgette if you want to up the fibre and veggies even further.
250g fresh or frozen garden peas
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Handful of mint leaves, reserve a few to decorate if you choose
Couple of generous pinches sea salt
Cook the peas according to the packet instructions and drain. Add all the ingredients to a food processor. Pulse to combine to your desired consistency – I like a little texture. Spoon into a container and place in the fridge. This will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge but is best eaten on the day or day after for optimum freshness.
CINNAMON & MAPLE APPLE LAYER POTS
An apple a day is a saying that has stood the test of time and our gut microbiota would wholeheartedly agree. Apples are an excellent source of pectin. This feeds the microbes in our gut so they can produce beneficial substances such as SCFAs including butyrate – in fact, butyrate-producing microbes are particularly partial to this type of fibre and we know that butyrate is crucial for our gut health and managing inflammation more generally. Stewing makes the pectin in apples more easily accessible to our gut microbes which is the method I’ve used here. Combined with cinnamon and maple to bring out the sweetness, this is a really simple recipe that hits the snack spot. I’ve layered this with yogurt (or crème fraiche) to bring in some beneficial bacteria and add to the gut microbiota party, so to speak.
2 eating apples
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons crème fraiche or full fat natural yogurt
Cut the apples into small cubes and discard the core. Place into a saucepan and lightly cover the bottom of the pan with water. Add all the other ingredients (except the yogurt/crème fraiche) and stew for around 10 minutes. You want them to be soft to touch with the back of a spoon. Add more water if they drink this up before you have got them soft enough.
Note this will slightly differ in terms of time depending on the apples you are using and their ripeness.
Once you are ready to serve, use a small glass or jar and then layer alternately - starting with a layer of 2 tablespoons yogurt, then 2 tablespoons apples. Repeat. Same again for the second pot. If you want you can sprinkle some nuts or seeds on top for extra crunch…and fibre!
The apples will keep for up to 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
PB & CHOC CHUNK BANANA BITES
These joyful bites combine no less than three types of fibre in the form of peanut butter, bananas and oats. Moreover, bananas and oats are both prebiotics which means they have an enhanced feeding effect on the gut microbiota. The other star ingredient is dark chocolate (one of the highest sources of polyphenols) and let’s be honest takes these bites to a whole other level. I’m sure you and your gut are gonna love this one!
75g peanut butter (smooth or crunchy as you prefer)
1 small-medium ripe banana
2 tablespoons honey
15g of your favourite dark chocolate bar (minimum. 70% cocoa) cut into very small chunks
Pinch sea salt
Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl together. Lightly dust your chopping board or surface with a scattering of oats and then divide and roll into balls that are slightly smaller than golf ball size. Place in the fridge for an hour to set. These will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container in the fridge.
And if you just want some other REALLY simple gut snack options try these…
- Small bowl of olives and a matchbox size chunk of hard cheese like cheddar, manchego or parmesan.
- Small bowl of frozen berries and handful of cashews – tip: also put the cashews in the freezer as this brings out the creaminess and some people reckon they then taste a bit like white chocolate.
- Cup of miso soup
- Small bar of dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)