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Rude Wonders

Ask Away: independent health store advice on healthy snacks

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Antonia Murray, owner of Alive and Well in Carlow town

Walking into a health food store is always an exciting visit, full of interesting foodie ideas ready to stimulate the health-conscious shopper. The array of healthy options is vast with new and exciting products appearing on the shelves. Your local health food store not only provides tried and tested items that people love but also new groundbreakers.

There are many types of healthy snacks to choose from depending on your needs. Healthy snacks for energy before a workout or just to help get through the afternoon lull, snacks for children and snacks for helping to keep the pounds off. There are savoury snacks, ‘sweet’ snacks and snacks geared to provide energy.

Going crackers

Crackers are great for healthy snacks as they create a healthy base for other toppings without being too heavy. They come in all shapes and sizes with options including rice cakes, corn cakes, rye crackers, oatcakes, quinoa crispbread, spelt crackers, puffed spelt and amaranthe cakes, buckwheat crispbread and more.

Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • Wholemeal oat or rice cake topped with fresh avocado slices, alfalfa or mung bean sprouts
  • Rice cake topped with your favourite nut or seed butter, a few slices of pear, topped with alfalfa sprouts
  • Buckwheat crispbread topped with avocado and a slice of tomato
  • Spelt crackers with soya cheese, a dash of pesto and red radish sprouts

Sprout Crazy

Sprouted seeds are available in most health stores and are packed with live enzymes. The health benefits of eating live sprouts are enormous – they contain less calories than other snacks while being rich sources of enzymes, fibre and vitamins such as vitamin C and K and other essential minerals. Health stores stock all the gear – seeds and germinators – required to get going on growing your own sprouts at home or you can buy sprouts that are already grown. Most health stores stock organic freshly sprouted seeds such as alfalfa, mung bean, red radish, broccoli and mixed varieties which make easy healthy additions to pop on top of snacks.

Have some hummus

Hummus is a paste made from chickpeas, sesame seed paste (tahini) oil and lemon juice. You can buy healthy hummus straight from the fridge in your health store. It is a wonderful source of calcium, protein, magnesium and potassium. It is also high in dietary fibre aiding in the digestive process for weight loss and cutting out cholesterol.

You can serve it as a dip with fresh sticks of raw carrot, celery or peppers. It can be used as a spread on crackers, is a very good alternative to mayonnaise and combines well with most savoury snacks. One of the most popular hummus varieties at Alive and Well is made with chargrilled red pepper.

At the bar

A growing trend is towards bars packed with energising fruit, nuts and seeds, preferably raw or dehydrated in order to preserve nutrients and enzymes, and containing little if any added sugar, no artificial additives, sweeteners or preservatives and usually gluten-, dairy- and wheat-free. Many contain superfoods and deliver nutrients such as protein, calcium and magnesium in one easy health bar or protein bomb. People are demanding convenience and these bars have it all, including antioxidant-rich foods such as raw cocoa, berries, maca, wheatgrass, coconut, chia seeds, açai berries, spirulina and chlorella.

Smooth mover

A very healthy snack is a smoothie usually made from fruit blended with your milk of choice. Additions such as protein powder, a super green powder such as spirulina or wheatgrass will enhance the nutrition of your smoothie and will keep those hunger pangs at bay while providing plenty of energy. Smoothies are great before a workout or any sort of exercise.

Clean crisps

Some really convenient snacks which are very good alternatives to regular crisps are airdried superthin slices of vegetables and fruits such as beetroot, carrot, apple or pears which unlike regular crisps have not been deep fried. Other alternative chips are made from chickpea or lentil flour combined with ingredients such as potato starch, rapeseed oil, cornflour and sea salt. These make a great change from the usual unhealthy options.

Who's who and what's what at Alive and Well

Antonia Murray established Alive and Well in Carlow town with her husband Gerald in 2005. Originally a kiosk in the Fairgreen Shopping Centre, they moved to Carlow Shopping Centre in 2013.

“Our customers are people who take charge of their own health and are of all ages,” says Antonia. “There are most commonly aged from 30 plus and more women than men. Parents ask for natural help for teething, coughs and colds, flower remedies for children’s emotional issues, allergies, heat rashes, that sort of thing.

“One of our big sellers is seeds, and superfood mixes and blends. Antioxidant-rich foods such as chia seeds and linseeds do well, also goji berries, green powders and raw cacao. Our sporty customers like to buy bars full of superfoods such as camu camu and maca and packed with protein. They get the energy without the sugar crash later. Matcha tea is also good for this.”

Alive and Well have wide ranges of eco-cleaning products, bodycare ranges, supplements and herbal remedies.

“We are very foodie,” says Antonia. “Our fridge has dairy alternatives, a tofu range, veggie and vegan alternatives, alternative cheeses and spreads, and kefir. I really like the new Mobo dairy-free ice cream in our freezer.”

Visit: Alive and Well in Carlow Shopping Centre
Look for: Regular weekly tastings, in-store promotions and free offers and a planned health awareness fornight for later in the year
SPEAK TO: Owner Antonia Murray, shop manager Trudy Collier, both of whom have regular and up to date training.

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