When I was little snack time was my favorite meal of the day…oh wait, it still is. As an elementary schooler, my go-to snacks usually fell into one of three categories: pudding cups, Goldfish, or rice cakes. My high school snacking career was a bit healthier: apples replaced pudding and Goldfish became almonds. But I’ve recently rediscovered the rice cake, and when it’s not covered in cheese dust or sugar it can actually serve as the base for a number of delicious and nutritious snack or lunch ideas. Plain, unsalted rice cakes are kind of like toast. They are fine on their own but when slathered in nut butter, jam, or whatever else you can dream up they enter a whole new category of yum. Whole wheat toast is always my first choice as something to spread stuff on, but even toast has its flaws, no matter how perfect it may seem. Can toast go to school? How about through the commute to work or in a lunch box for a three hour car ride? I think not. Sadly, toast tends to loose its signature crunch after an hour or two and turns back into saggy old bread. Rice cakes on the other hand are forever crisp and can travel just about anywhere you do. Their only ingredient is whole grain rice, and pretty much have nothing bad to offer the body. Rice cakes are all natural, devoid of carbs, fats, or sugar, and very low in calories (one cake has only 40). Its up to you to turn this blank slate into something packed with nutrients and flavor! I have been allowing my creativity to take full control when it comes to rice cake creations, and here are some of the best tasting results.
This first combo is the perfect post-workout snack. Bananas are very rich in potassium, and after an hour of giving your all at the gym this mineral is something your body is most certainly lacking. Replenishing potassium immediately after working out allows the body to absorb it quickly and leads to increased muscle energy for future workouts. Almond butter is another fabulous recovery food. Compared to its cousin peanut butter, this spread has greater amounts of fiber, iron, vitamin E and magnesium, but packs about the same punch of protein to help those guns grow.
If you’re craving something sweet but not so psyched for high amounts of sugar, this is the rice cake for you. Grape jelly is my absolute favorite, try to stick with an all-fruit jelly without preservatives or added sugar. This way you know you are taking in the pure and complete benefits that fruit provides: prevention of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and constipation. Berries are also proven to reduce the symptoms of allergies, perfect for this time of year! I topped my rice cake with natural jelly, blackberries, and blueberries.
Let me introduce you to my little friend: Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter. Peanut Butter & Co.’s latest creation is probably the highlight of gastronomic life. I kid you not. It somehow contains the perfect mix of dark chocolate and peanut butter so that you taste both ingredients individually and yet somehow together. I’m not a nut-butter scientist so I have no clue how this is possible, all I can say is that I’m glad it is. Peanut Butter & Co. uses only natural ingredients in their products, and compared to the more popular chocolatey spread Nutella, Dark Chocolate Dreams contains 1/3 of the sugar and double the fiber. Peanuts are a great source of protein and when paired with the antioxidants found in dark chocolate this mix is bound to put both you, and your body, in a good mood. Top with fresh strawberries for some extra immunity-boosting vitamin C, not to mention improved eye health, wrinkle prevention, and lower blood pressure!
Honey and cinnamon are together the perfect mix of spicy and sweet, and one of my favorite combos to top an English muffin…but work just as well on a rice cake! A drizzle of honey can do wonders for your energy all day, it contains natural sugars which are absorbed slowly and burned as energy rather than stored as fat. Also, honey is known for fighting colds, preventing the growth of stomach ulcers, and even regulating sleep cycles. Just make sure it is 100% raw honey…extra points if you buy it at a local farmer’s market! Cinnamon also has its fair share of health benefits: it helps the body fight infection and repair cell damage, prevents type 2 diabetes by regulating insulin, and has been proven to speed up the metabolism. What more could you want?!
Feel free to get creative with your rice cake toppings and let me know what you come up with in the comments below!