I'm always on the lookout for simple, tasty snacks that are portable. Whether I'm at work, at home, traveling or catching up on work at a coffee shop or at my local library, snacks are a big part of my diet. They help keep my energy level up and my hunger pangs down! Unfortunately, the majority of commercially prepared snacks are made with lots of added sugar and processed oils, so I always bring my own. My absolute favorite snack combo includes almonds, dark chocolate and dried cherries. Sometimes cherries are substituted with dried plums or cranberries, but throughout the summer, cherries have been my dried fruit of choice!
Did you know?
97% of Americans report eating at least one snack each day and 40% report consuming three-to-four snacks a day.
~Piernas C, Popkin BM. J Nutr 2010; 140: 325-332
Last month, I was inspired to make these Almond Choco-Cherry Chia Bites after preparing a similar version with a group of fellow dietitians during an amazing orchard tour experience I was invited to by the California Almond Board. At one point, we were split into teams and challenged to create a snack from a selection of ingredients; our group made a fantastic no-bake almond “energy ball” (a wildly popular snack these days!). Although we didn’t win the competition, I loved our recipe so much that upon my return home, I slightly modified it and couldn't wait to share it on my blog--I even made a fun video featuring my daughter! (Check it out at the end of this post!)
Before our mini-competition, several experts spoke with us about almond agriculture, nutrition and consumer snacking habits. Here are five interesting facts I learned:
- 91% of California Almond farms are family-owned and nearly three-quarters of them grow less than 100 acres of almonds
- Almonds are California’s number one agricultural export, which accounts for 83% of the world’s almond production
- Almond trees (and the water used to grow them) produce fruit that contains three parts--all of which are used! The outer hull is sold as livestock feed. The shells are either used for alternative energy, pressed particleboard and/or livestock bedding. The kernel contains the nutrient rich (and tasty!) edible nut.
- Almonds account for nine percent of California's agricultural (not total) water use and 83% of almond growers practice demand-based (versus fixed) irrigation that tracks soil, tree and weather condition (Click here for more info on almonds and water)
- Nut consumption is not generally associated with higher BMI (Body Mass Index); this is likely influenced by the combination of slow digesting fat and fiber that boosts satiety and helps us feel full for a long period of time after eating.
Almonds are not only delicious, they’re an excellent source of protein, healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber--all of which make for a satisfying snack. In addition to almonds and almond butter, this recipe has heart healthy rolled oats, antioxidant rich dark chocolate, dried cherries and chia seeds that add to the texture and nutrition of this bite-sized snack. Stick them in the refrigerator or freezer, then take a few along to enjoy as a mid-morning or afternoon snack or when you're heading out for a long hike or bike ride. Have the kids help you out in the kitchen with mixing and shaping these bites into rounded balls. They're bake-free, fun to make and (of course) bursting with flavor!
Full disclosure: My Almond Orchard Experience in Lodi, CA was sponsored by the California Almond Board. However, I was neither required to nor compensated for writing this post. All opinions and views are my own.
Almond Choco-Cherry Chia Bites
Recipe by: Christy Wilson
Serving : 1 bite
Recipe makes: 35, one-inch sized bites
Total Time: 20 minutes
- 1 ½ cup rolled oats (sometimes labeled as Old Fashioned Oats)
- ½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- ¼ cup 72% cocoa dark chocolate, roughly chopped into small pieces
- ½ cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2/3 cup almond butter
- In a large mixing bowl, add first six ingredients into the bowl (oats to cherries). Stir all ingredients together until combined.
- Add honey and almond butter to bowl and mix all ingredients together until combined.
- Place mixture into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, as this will allow it to harden and make it easier work with.
- Shape mixture into one-inch rounded balls and place on a platter or cookie sheet.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container up to five days. You can also freeze and take out as needed.
Nutrition Facts per serving: 1 bite
Calories: 80; Total Fat: 4.5 gr; Saturated Fat: 1 gr; Trans-fat: 0; Cholesterol: 0; Sodium: 0 mg; Carbohydrates: 9 gr; Fiber: 2 gr; Sugar: 4 gr; Protein: 2 gr; Vitamin A: 2%; Calcium: 2%; Iron: 4%; Potassium: 25 mg
Special thanks to my little girl for all of her help with this post! Mama loves you:)