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Counter intelligence: summer snacking with “good” calories and better taste

Minimalism is going to be big this summer, and not only with fashion and beauty. After a year of heavier, comforting foods, we should be going in the opposite direction with energy-boosting lighter fare. However, if we’re used to salt, sweets, creaminess and even that illusive umami, there’s a rub: how do you get the flavours of foods you got used to during lockdown while keeping the calorie counts low and nutrition levels when the mercury rises? 
       You can start by adding a few flavourful flourishes to your salad, sandwich, cheese and fruit plates and lean proteins that also happen to be vegan, gluten-free and made with high-quality ingredients. If you have to add calories to get more flavour, texture and satisfaction, read the ingredients to be assured the calories are packed with benefits such as fibre, vegetable content, healthy oils and other surprisingly beneficial things. 
       Here are a few inspiring ideas to add zest to your lighter, brighter summertime meals.

TopSeedz (US$7·99, Amazon and Whole Foods Markets): these handmade gluten-free and vegan crackers are the “chameleon of crackers”, as they can be served with anything yet are filled with wholesome ingredients and yummy seeds that have a slew of good-for-you benefits. Created on the belief that good food equals good performance, Top Seedz are packed with pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and flax seeds, all of which add up to a great canvas for cheese and fruit plates as well as salad when broken up as croutons. Flavour varieties include Six Seed, Sea Salt, Rosemary and Cumin. Available from Amazon and Whole Foods.

Plant Junkie (US$11·98, from Amazon and Walmart): as studies have shown through the years that low-calorie dressings may actually negate the good things a fresh salad offers, it only makes sense to use the “real” stuff. A little bit of fat goes a long way in helping the body absorb the full nutritional value of the salad as many of the vitamins are fat-soluble. While you will want to have several flavours of Plant Junkie’s dressings (plantjunkie.com) on hand (Turmeric and Pepper Ranch, Chipotle Ranch, Chia Ranch, Cilantro Avocado Ranch) to mix things up, the rock star of the line is the Thai Peanut Dressing. It adds all the Thai restaurant flavours we love: spicy, salty, sour, and sweet, to salads, sandwiches, slaws and veggie platters. Looking to jazz up lean protein? It works as a marinade or a stir-fry with veggies.

BeanVivo (US$3·99 per pouch at Amazon): while it’s common sense that we want to cut back on starches during the hot summer months, it’s important to note that not all starchy sides are created equal. Swap chips and fries out for BeanVivo seasoned organic beans, which are a snap to prepare and deliver a tasteful blend of healthy and sustainable sides or even full meals in convenient pouches. High in protein, these beans are rich in healthy macro and micronutrients, and chock full of fibre, which helps you feel satisfied without being weighed down.

Red Chocolate (US$3·98, Amazon and Walmart): the ‘all the indulgence without the guilt’ tagline is not just hype. When you want just a little something sweet, these bars deliver with up to 50 per cent fewer calories, no added sugar and up to 40 per cent less fat. Formulated by European master chocolatiers, Red is ready to take the US by storm. The grab-’n’-go, keto-friendly and diet-plan-approved bars are offered in classic dark, classic milk and other delicious flavours like orange and almond. Better still, they are ethically produced and made with cocoa from the Ivory Coast of Africa, whose farmers select, roast, and grind the cocoa beans to perfection.

Livbar (US$33 for Crowd Pleaser box of 12; US$3·49 each, Amazon and Instacart): while takeaway or to-go meals are notoriously not the healthiest, Oregon-based Livbar turns the concept on its head with a just-launched line of USDA-certified organic nutrition bars that don’t melt or freeze! Each bar is hand-baked with superfood and immunity-supporting ingredients in the company’s solar-powered, dedicated gluten-free, and SQF-certified facility. The colourful, flavour combinations include coffee maple cacao, ginger lemon turmeric, raspberry kale maca, lemongrass cherry matcha, and blueberry vanilla kale. The vibrant wrappers, meanwhile, are 100 per cent compostable and made from cellulose, the most abundant of naturally occurring organic materials.


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