This potent cinnamon and popcorn snack mix is packed with brain-boosting, mood-supporting, immune-boosting, and antioxidant-rich foods. It's the perfect snack for little (or big) hands to reach back to school, whether in person or online. Read on to discover all the wonderful benefits of each carefully selected ingredient.
This post is sponsored by Pop Zero Popcorn. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Blissful Basil!
Despite the heat and humidity lingering in the air here in the Midwest, we've officially reached the point of summer relaxation. The space between free time and it's time to start over.
And whether or not our lives continue to be managed by the school calendar, there is no denying the energy of novelty, fresh starts and opportunities that emerge each year around this time.
It is also undeniable that this back-to-school season is totally different from any that came before it. But nourishing back-to-school snacks are just as important whether you or your little one is returning to classes in person, balancing the back-and-forth nature of a hybrid-style program, or fully embracing online learning. .
In fact, I'd say * really * nutritious snacks are more important than ever, as collective attention shifts to more closely observe how our daily choices affect our physical results.
I recently completed an intensive online certification course on the topic of Integrative and Nutritional Medicine for Mental Health.
Although I do not actively practice psychology at this time, I am continuing with continuing education credits to maintain my license to practice. And I intentionally choose classes that weave together my multifaceted passions for the brain, holistic + spiritual wellness, and nutrition so that I can tap into that information here, albeit in a very informal way.
Without going too far in the fray of research here ...
The course consolidated much of what I learned to know both from clinical practice and from my own experience: We lay the foundation for wellness with our everyday choices. In other words, the modest but consistent choices we make every day - especially when it comes to the foods we eat - are powerful precursors to physical, cognitive, and emotional outcomes.
Well-being and wellness starts with what we eat and ingest (vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, plants). And there is no one diet for everyone, but rather each of us should feel empowered to seek out the foods that most support our unique makeup (bio-individuality).
With all of this in mind, I have become even more intentional than usual with my food choices in recent months. Purposefully choose simpler meals with fewer ingredients but with each ingredient providing a wide range of nutritional benefits. More nutritional value for the money of the ingredients.
I'm sure you know where I'm coming from, but this popcorn snack mix was designed to support mood, cognition, and even immunity through its combination of healthy fats, omega-3s, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It's versatile and easily adaptable, so you can mix and match as you like and based on snacking preferences and allergies (nut-free option included).
Benefits for the brain, body and mood
Here's a look at the nutritional benefits hidden in every handful of this tasty snack mix:
Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds). Rich in antioxidants (anti-inflammatory). Rich in protein (1 ounce = 7 grams) and healthy fats. Rich in vitamin K, vitamin E, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, iron and zinc (1 ounce = 14% RDU). Pumpkin seeds are considered one of the best natural sources of magnesium. Magnesium is an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and anti-stress mineral that supports cognition and good mood. Specifically, magnesium enhances serotonin synthesis, improves short-term memory (while alleviating traumatic memories), maintains the amount of synaptic connections between brain cells, and reduces inflammation and oxidative stress. Almost 80% of adults in the United States do not meet the daily requirement for magnesium intake. Zinc is a natural antidepressant and is known to support cognition in seniors.
Sun-flower seeds. Rich in protein (1 ounce = 5.5 grams) as well as healthy fats that support neural communication. Anti-inflammatory. Rich in vitamin E (1 ounce = 37% RDU), niacin, folate, copper (1 ounce = 26% RDU), manganese and selenium (1 ounce = 32% RDU). Vitamin E supports cognition and is especially important with age because it reduces the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Copper regulates cellular energy production and neurotransmission. Too much or too little copper can contribute to depression, so it's important to strive for a balanced amount each day. Selenium is important for immune function. It also uplifts the mood and reduces inflammation in the body. A small amount of selenium each day is optimal.
Nuts (omit for nut free). The ultimate food for the brain. Is it surprising given their brain shape? Walnuts are one of the only nuts that contain significant amounts of healthy alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3 fatty acids. TO THE is beneficial for heart health, reduces inflammation and improves blood fat composition. Walnuts have been shown to improve brain function in animals, improve memory, and even reverse age-related memory impairment due to their antioxidant and omega-3 content. Nuts too support the production of GABA in the brain. GABA is a natural anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and has a calming effect.
Dried wild blueberries. Blueberries are considered a very mood-enhancing food. Wild blueberries have twice the antioxidant content of commonly grown blueberries. They are particularly rich in flavonoid anthocyanins, which contribute both to the deep blue-violet hue of berries and their health-protective properties. Specifically, anthocyanins are hailed for their anti-depressant effects as well as their ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Dried tart cherries. Montmorency cherries are also rich in anti-inflammatory anthocyanins. Cherries also stimulate the release of melatonin, which helps support restful sleep and the body's natural circadian rhythm. Improved sleep = improved mood and cognition. Random side benefit for those who struggle with gout: The antioxidants in tart cherries reduce uric acid and therefore joint pain associated with the disease.
Pop Zero Popcorn. This plant-based vegan popcorn is made with simple yet punchy ingredients. Algae oil is one of the most important. Seaweed oil contains vitamin A, vitamin B-12 and iron; and contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids rich in DHA and EPA which stimulate the brain. Pop Zero Popcorn also contains pea protein, a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids. Beyond the nutritional benefits, I personally love Pop Zero's use of non-GMO Mushroom Popcorn Kernels - they are much more robust and substantial than other types of kernels, which makes popcorn perfect for those who want to eat. snack mixes.
I have to say I was a little hesitant about the seaweed oil at first. Being pregnant, I can barely stand the hint of seaweed flavor that comes from ingesting my prenatal vitamins. But seriously, seaweed oil for the win. This popcorn is so good and doesn't taste like seaweed.
Move over, all the other “healthy” store-bought popcorn lines. This is by far my favorite. And Dan too. I let him try on some of the snack size bags before I got down to working on the recipe and almost had to crush it with a spatula to keep it from making its way through the huge box that Pop Zero kindly sent me.
Below is an overview of current flavor options, including Chili Lime, Cinema, Cinnamon, and Sea Salt. All equally delicious. Mushroom grains make such a difference - so much nicer to eat than standard grains.
How to make a cinnamon snack mix
To make this simple snack mix, you'll mix together the following:
Pop Zero Cinnamon Popcorn
Sunflower seeds or nuts (or a combination of the two)
Dried tart cherries
Dried wild blueberries
I like keeping this mix of potent cinnamon and popcorn snacks in individual airtight jars for a simple on-the-go snack.
Hope you and your loved ones enjoy this back to school snack. And I hope back to school, whether it's in person or online, is going well for you.
I learned that in these bizarre times we can regain our sense of calm by focusing more closely on what we can control (within reason) and peacefully releasing what we cannot. Send love to all of you. 💗
Powerful Cinnamon Snack Mix
This potent cinnamon and popcorn snack mix is packed with brain-boosting, mood-boosting, immune-boosting, and antioxidant-rich foods. It's the perfect snack for little (or big) hands to reach back to school, whether in person or online. Read on to discover all the wonderful benefits of each carefully selected ingredient.
- 5 cups Pop Zero Cinnamon Popcorn (three 0.7 oz bags)
- 3/4 Chopped off shelled sunflower seeds or coarsely chopped nuts * (or a combination of both)
- 3/4 Chopped off sunflower seeds
- 1/4 to 1/2 Chopped off Dried tart cherries or dried cranberries (or a combination of both)
- 1/4 to 1/2 Chopped off dried wild blueberries or dried blackberries
In a large bowl, combine the popcorn, pepitas, sunflower seeds / nuts, dried cherries and dried blueberries.
Store in jars or airtight containers.
* No nuts? No problem. Use sunflower seeds to keep this nut free recipe.
1. Leslie Korn, PhD, MPH, LMHC, ACS, RPP, NTP, NCBTMB. (2018). Classes: Advanced nutritional and integrative medicine for mental health practitioners.
2. The top 11 scientific health benefits of pumpkin seeds. Recovered from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds
3. Are sunflower seeds good for you? Nutrition, benefits and more. Recovered from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sunflower-seeds#nutrition
4. Walnuts 101: Nutritional value and health benefits. Recovered from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/walnuts
It’s easy to be cynical about the idea of New Year’s resolutions, but there is a lot of undeniable and powerful energy surrounding the idea of change at this time of year. For many of us, that change starts in the kitchen.
Maybe it means resolving to cook at home more often, to keep a well-stocked freezer and pantry, to waste less, or to make slightly more wholesome choices. Maybe, for you, this is the year in which you’d like to give veganism ( or vegetarianism ) a try.
Whether you’re trying to dip your toes slowly into the world of plant-based eating, or you’re ready to make a total shift, it can be helpful to keep a few things in mind.
Some people go vegan overnight, and they never look back. But for many others, a slow transition is more sustainable ( and pleasurable ) than a 180-degree turn. If the idea of going vegan feels daunting, start with a couple of small steps, like a Meatless Monday challenge at home, or switching one of your daily meals to a meatless and dairy-free option. ( You’d be surprised at how easy it is to trade your turkey sandwich for hummus, tempeh bacon, and avocado ).
I’m quick to say that vegan food is just food. While there are a couple of secret weapon ingredients to have on your radar ( nutritional yeast, I’m lookin’ at you ), for the most part a saine appetite for grains, beans, and produce is all you really need to get started. With that said, any dietary shift can be tricky, and veganism is no exception. So, before you get started, take just a little time to go over the basics of plant-based alimentation. Find a useful, all-in-one resource, like Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina’s Becoming Vegan, or Ginny Messina and Jack Norris’ Vegan For Life. At some point, someone will ask you where you get your protein ( or your iron, or your calcium ), and while you could laugh the question off, it’s a lot more powerful to supply a quick, confident answer.
Going vegan expanded my palate dramatically : I learned about all sorts of global cuisines, warmed up to my spice rack, and tried ingredients I’d never considered before. But my culinary repertoire was pretty meager when I made the switch. If you already have some culinary experience, don’t assume that you’ll need to acquire an entirely new bag of tricks to eat vegan or vegetarian.
In fact, one really useful place to start is by looking at some of your favorite dinner recipes and thinking about how you might adapt them to be meatless and/or dairy-free. It may be as simple as removing some cheese ( or replacing it with cashew cheese ). It may mean trading the central protein for beans, soy foods, or even a hearty vegetable, like mushrooms.
Until I went vegan, I had never tried tempeh, soba noodles, kimchi, kabocha squash, nutritional yeast, millet, mulberries, or buckwheat…and the list goes on. Becoming vegan encouraged me to explore new ingredients, and it also introduced me to more global dishes.
A great many dietary folklores around the world are already plant-based, which means that végétaliens and vegetarians have many rich, exciting culinary folklores to draw upon. If you’re new to plant-based cooking, explore meatless dishes and recipes from other parts of the world ( Indian, Ethiopian, and Middle Eastern dishes are some of my personal préférés ). Dust off your spice rack and add new flavors to your food. Use your transition to plant-based eating as an excuse to try new grains, legumes, and vegetables.
A lot of folks assume that adapting a recipe to be vegan means replacing the meat or poultry with a faux meat, a block of tofu, or tempeh. That’s cool, but it can also be fun to think creatively and imaginatively about how to capture the essence of a traditional recipe without animal protein. No, lentil Bolognese isn’t really Bolognese, but it does capture the heartiness of the original; cashew banana yogurt is a far cry from dairy, but it does evoke the same, sweet creaminess.
Many people are surprised by how easy it is to go meatless. Cheese, on the other hand, is a different story. I myself used to utter the same words I hear constantly from readers, friends, and alimentation clients : ' I’d love to go vegan, but I can’t give up cheese. '
While I won’t pretend that giving up dairy is easy—it’s not, especially because it’s so ubiquitous in restaurant dishes—I will say that I had a much easier time living without it when I learned to make my own substitutes. Store-bought soy and almond cheeses weren’t cutting it ( especially nine years ago, when the alternatives were limited ), and soy creamers and yogurts left me feeling equally flat. Making my first batch of cashew cheese—which authentically captured the tanginess and texture of goat cheese—was a revelation. Homemade nut milk let me create creamy porridge and muesli far more authentically than did store-bought, non-dairy milk.
Over time, I’ve experimented with tofu paneer, tofu feta, and cashew yogurt, and the list is growing. Homemade dairy substitutes are creative, fun, and cost-effective, and I think they’re a big step up from what you can find in the store.
While I’m the first to point out that vegan proteins extend far beyond soy foods—encompassing couleurs of different céréales, legumes, nuts, and seeds—you really can’t beat tofu and tempeh for ' meaty ' matière and complete protein in meatless dishes. Both ingredients can be either memorable or mundane, depending on how you prepare them. I definitely recommend pressing tofu if you’re not already in the habit; it’ll create a firmer, more toothsome matière that most people prefer.
When preparing tempeh, be sure to use a boldly flavored marinade or sauce to help balance tempeh’s earthy taste, and if you find it bitter, you can steam it before marinating, too.
For the most part, I try to feature whole foods and homemade ingredients in my cooking. But in spite of the fact that I love to create my own dairy substitutes and I’d usually rather eat a scoop of lentils than a block of faux meat, I don’t eschew vegan products, and I think that keeping an open mind about them can really enrich the authenticity of your food.
This is especially important when you’re transitioning and vegan cooking still feels like a brave new world. Nine times out of ten, I’ll opt to use cashew cheese in a recipe rather than Daiya ( a melty, commercial vegan cheese ) ; coconut oil in place of Earth Balance ( vegan butter ) ; or grilled tofu in place of Beyond Chicken ( grilled strips of soy and pea protein that taste shockingly like chicken ).
But when I’m aiming for totally authentic, precise results, vegan substitute products can go a long way, and it’s comforting to know that they’re an option if I feel like taking a shortcut.
Over time, I learned to create vegan food with greater sensitivity to others’ tastes and folklores. I love a lot of really crunchy fare, from the aforementioned raw kale salad to tofu, sprouts, and grain bowls. And I know a lot of other folks who love these dishes, too. But sometimes being an ambassador of vegan food means knowing how to create dishes that feel familiar and appeal to a wide array of more conservative palates, like vegan lasagna, shepherd’s pie, or sloppy Joes.
And, if you’re trying to dispel the idea that all vegans eat is salad and prove that vegan food can be filling and hearty, then it’s all the more important to create dishes that evoke a sense of comfort.
Change feels a lot less daunting when you have company. If your family and friends aren’t exploring veganism along with you, then find community in other ways. Explore a vegan meetup or potluck in your community. Become a regular commenter on vegan food blogs. If you do have a friend who’s interested in plant-based cooking, convie him or her over for some recipe testing.
Studies show that failure to stick with a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is often attributed to feeling ' different ' or isolated. Food is all about community and sharing, so do your best to share this lifestyle with people you care about—even if they’re not making the change along with you.