But we all know that abstention isn't realistic, at least not in the long run. Conventional wisdom has always been that rather than deprive yourself of snacks, you should make healthier choices about them. Not a horrible idea... And you often hear the suggestion to keep a bowl of cut and ready-to-eat vegetables — such as carrot sticks and celery — in the refrigerator to satisfy those urges.
As if. When I'm feeling like polishing off a loaf of bread and half a pound of cheese, a bunch of carrot sticks aren't going to do it for me.
It took many years for me to realize there are ways to make this otherwise silly advice work. I've discovered there are things I can do to carrot sticks (aside from dunk them in sour cream) and other veggies to render them way more satisfying, yet still healthy. And I found that while these doctored veggies in no way can be confused with a bag of potato chips, they can be satisfying enough to prevent me from inhaling the refrigerator.
One of my favourite ways is to turn the vegetables into a quick pickle. Turns out that bathing them in a salty-tangy-sweet brine can radically up their appeal. The best part is that these veggies are fast and simple to prepare, and it's easy to double or triple the recipe to make sure you have ample healthy munchies on hand.
QUICK-PICKLED CARROTS AND RADISHES
Don't fret too much over how you cut your carrots. The trick really is just to get all of the pieces roughly the same size. Usually if I'm dealing with medium to large carrots, I cut off the bottom half and leave it as is, or cut it in half lengthwise. Then I cut the upper half into quarters lengthwise. But feel free to cut shorter lengths as you see fit.
Start to finish: 20 minutes, plus cooling
3 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 pounds carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into spears
1 pound red radishes, trimmed and quartered
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, cumin, caraway, mustard seeds, garlic powder and onion powder. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the carrots and radishes, then bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then set aside off the heat until cool.
Once the vegetables are cool, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a jar or bowl. Ladle just enough of the liquid over the vegetables to cover them. Cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days.
Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 5 calories from fat (7 per cent of total calories); 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 2 g protein; 580 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org