Create Healthy Snacks with a Dehydrator
Many people associate dehydrated foods with the raw food diet. However, regardless of your diet, having a dehydrator at home is a great way to expand the types of snack foods you have on hand that are not only extremely filling and delicious, but also great for your health. There are an endless number of foods you can prepare in a dehydrator that are simple to make and take very little preparation time aside from the actual dehydration. With a little careful planning, you can keep your kitchen stocked with gourmet snack foods and meet your health goals with ease.
A dehydrator is an oven like electrical kitchen apparatus with trays that dries/cooks food at a very low temperature over many hours. The benefit of this system of food preparation is that all of the nutrients and live enzymes remain in their original form during the cooking process. The temperature for achieving this is 115 degrees or below, a temperature that a regular oven can’t maintain. One of the best and most popular dehydrators on the market is the Excalibur. They have many inexpensive options for home use depending on your needs, but make sure you also purchase the teflex "non-stick" sheets to increase the variety of foods you can prepare with your dehydrator.
Here are some great snack ideas to help you get started.
Marinated Sliced Vegetables
Cooking sliced vegetables only takes a few hours and the slow cooking process makes for a delicious flavor and texture that can be easily tossed into salads, wraps or eaten alone. Just a little bit of olive oil and sea salt make for a delicious marinade, however you can get as creative as you like with spices and other seasonings.
Kale or Swiss Chard "Chips"
There couldn’t be a better way to eat your greens. Chopped kale or swiss chard marinated with olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt, spices, etc. and then dehydrated until crunchy makes for an absolutely delicious snack. If you use a teflex sheet (which will likely be necessary to avoid sticking to the tray in the beginning), make sure that you move the mixture around every few hours to ensure it dries evenly and doesn’t ferment.
Although at first making crackers can seem intimidating, they are actually quite easy and fail proof. Almost any combination of vegetables, nuts and seeds will work as long as you use flax (either ground or whole - experiment for different textures) to act as a binder. The common way to make the "batter" is to prepare the mix in a food processor or blender and then spread 1-2 cups on a tray with the teflex sheet at a depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. After several hours (4-6 hours or overnight), you can flip the sheet over to slice them into the shape you want and then cook the other side. The easiest way to do this is to put another tray on top of the original, turn the entire sheet on its other side (by transferring it to the new tray) and then peel the sheet off. After another 4-6 hours or so, the crackers will be crunchy and ready. Crackers keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks and even longer in the freezer, making great snacks to always have on hand.
Falafels or Mini Burgers
If you’re looking for something to snack on with a bit of a softer texture, consider making some falafels or mini burgers that you can eat alone or toss in between a few pieces of lettuce. These types of foods are usually made from nuts, seeds and vegetables, processed, and then formed into mini patties. Once dehydrated evenly on both sides (you can flip them in the same way you flip crackers), they usually end up a bit crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
For a sweet snack, try making a macaroon or cookie using ingredients such as raw cacao, cashews, coconut, dates and honey. The great news about raw deserts is how filling they are. Most people only desire a cookie or two before they feel satiated and unable to eat more. There are many recipes online for not only cookies but the other snacks mentioned as well. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredient combinations.
There are many other foods/meals you can make in the dehydrator such as wraps, pizza crusts, tacos, bread, hamburgers, torts, pie crusts, etc. Having dehydrated foods around makes it easy to eat a primarily plant-based diet, especially for those who are transitioning from a conventional one. Since you naturally eat less with raw foods, for those who want to lose weight, it’s easy to cut calories and naturally eat less without thinking about it. Dehydrated foods are also a great way to get a wide variety of nutrients, which is helpful for preventing and healing most health conditions and diseases.
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.