5 Best Healthier Snacks for Marathon Gaming Sessions

While there’s nothing wrong with the predictable hunger killers — peanuts, pretzels, a piece of fruit — these go-to mini-meals are distinctly uninspired. Our weekly Man Food series will help you fight the scourge of boring snacks.

It may not be a totally fair stereotype, but gamers aren’t exactly known for favoring healthy meals. Not only can the junk food that often fuels an all-night Call of Duty session contribute to weight gain, but there’s some evidence that gaming might cause you to eat more. Swapping chips and soda for healthier snacks can help you stay energized and focused no matter how long you plan to play. Here are five recipes for homemade snacks that are healthier than junk food while still being convenient enough to eat with just one hand.

1. Pizza Poppers

pizza rolls

Source: iStock

Bite-sized pizza rolls offer instant snacking gratification, but no one is going to mistake them for a health food. This recipe for homemade pizza poppers from The Kitchn does away with the mystery ingredients in the freezer-aisle variety in favor of wholesome, better-for-you goodness. Best of all, you can make a huge batch of these in advance to freeze, and then just pop a few in the toaster oven when you’re ready to eat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound store-bought or homemade pizza dough
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ pound cooked sausage, crumbled (optional)
  • Flour for dusting
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Directions: Gather all the ingredients, and let come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the tomato sauce, cheese, and sausage in a medium bowl, stirring until everything is well combined.

Divide the dough into small-ish pieces, each about the size of a tennis ball. Roll out the dough until it is approximately ¼-inch thick and forms a long rectangle about 4 inches wide.

Drop about 1 teaspoon of pizza roll filling onto the dough, working down the long side of the rectangle and leaving about 1 inch between each spoonful. Drop the filling on one side of the rectangle, so that you can fold the dough over to make the rolls.

Fold the dough over the filling, pressing together between each mound. Then, use a sharp knife to cut each pizza roll apart from the others. Pinch together the open end of the pizza roll to seal. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

Transfer the pizza rolls to the parchment-lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Lightly brush with olive oil, and then sprinkle on a little kosher salt. Bake in oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then serve.

To freeze cooked pizza rolls for later, place a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the freezer. Once the rolls are completely frozen, transfer to a freezer bag to store. To reheat, cook in a toaster oven or regular oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Spinach & Mushroom Hot Pockets

Spinach Calzones, cheese pastry

Source: iStock

These homemade hot pockets are stuffed with healthy spinach and mushrooms, plus delicious mozzarella cheese, for a convenient snack that won’t leave you scratching your head when you read the ingredients list. Using store-bought puff pastry makes prepping these calzone-like mini-meals even easier. To reheat from frozen, just pop in the microwave for a minute or two. Recipe from Bowl of Delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach, stemmed and washed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh or shredded mozzarella
  • 1 egg, beaten and mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, for dipping

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add olive oil to a large skillet, and turn heat to medium-high. Saute the mushrooms until they release their liquid, the water evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to brown (about 5 minutes).

Add the spinach to the pan, and cook for about 2 minutes, until wilted. Add the garlic to the pan, and cook for another minute or so, until the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat.

Roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle, and divide into 8 squares. Top each square with a generous spoonful of the mushroom spinach mixture, and then top with mozzarella cheese. Fold the puff pastry over the filling to form a triangle, and then use a fork to seal.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the spinach pockets on the baking sheet, then brush with egg and water mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve with a side of marinara sauce if desired.

If not eating immediately, place cooked calzones in a single layer on a plate or baking sheet, and freeze. Once calzones are fully frozen, wrap each in a paper towel and then saran wrap or foil. When ready to eat, remove the outer wrapping (leave the paper towel) and microwave for a minute or two. Remove the paper towel from calzone, then serve.

3. Vegetarian Sushi

rolling sushi at home, japanese food

Source: iStock

Pop-in-your-mouth sushi is both mess-free (no crumbs on the controller) and good for you. Plus, making your own rolls isn’t nearly as hard as you might expect. This easy-to-follow sushi recipe from Food 52 doesn’t contain any fish, making it a bit less intimidating for beginners. You’ll need a sushi mat if you’re going to try to make this dish, which yields about 6 rolls.

Ingredients:

For rice:

  • 2 cups sushi or short-grain white rice
  • 2¼ cups cold water
  • 5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt

For filling:

  • 6 sheets nori
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • Pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce, to serve

Directions: Pour the rice into a bowl, cover with water, and then massage the rice with your hand. When the water turns white, drain the rice. Repeat this process 2 or 3 more times until the water is almost clear when you massage the rice.

Pour rice into a sieve, and then let drain for 20 or 30 minutes. Then, add rice to a medium saucepan and cover with 2¼ cups of cold water. Let rice soak for 30 to 60 minutes. (You can skip the soaking step if pressed for time.)

Cover the saucepan, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. When the water boils, turn temperature as low as it will go, and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Don’t remove the lid during this process or your rice may not cook completely.

Let the rice stand in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes. While you wait, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture is syrupy. Remove from heat, and let cool. Stir the vinegar mixture into the rice, then dump on a flat tray, and let cool to room temperature.

Lay a piece of nori (shiny-side down) onto your sushi mat. Pour some water into a small bowl, and wet your hands (this will keep the rice from sticking to your fingers as you work).

Divide the rice into six even portions. Spread one portion over the nori, making sure to leave some space at both the top and bottom so you can seal your roll. Lightly pat the rice into place.

Spread some mayonnaise down the center of the rice, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Lay some strips of cucumber and avocado on top. Wet your finger, and rub it along the edge of nori furthest away from you.

Using the bamboo mat as a tool, lift the end of the sushi closest to you up and over the filling, gently squeezing as you work. Continue rolling to seal the roll.

Repeat this process with the remaining nori, rice, and filling. To slice your rolls, run a sharp knife under cold water, and cut each roll into 8 to 10 pieces. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce.

4. Bacon Broccoli Potato Spring Rolls

Spring Egg Rolls

Source: iStock

Crispy spring rolls are stuffed with a rich and creamy filling of potatoes, broccoli, and bacon in this recipe from The Food in My Beard. Deep-frying this cheesy snack means it still feels like a treat, while wholesome potatoes and broccoli provide a good amount of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. This recipes makes 20 spring rolls.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • 2 cups jack cheese, grated
  • 5 strips bacon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Spring roll wrappers
  • Oil for frying

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the potatoes, and then bake until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then roughly chop and add to the bowl of a food processor.

Cook the bacon, and then add it to the food processor. Chop the broccoli, and add to the potato bacon mixture, then add the cheese and butter. Pulse until everything is combined, adding sour cream as necessary to create a smooth yet still thick consistency.

Lay a spring roll wrapper on your work surface, and top with ¼ cup of potato filling. Roll up the wrapper, seal, and set aside. Continue forming rolls until you’ve used up all the potato mixture.

Heat the oil in your deep fryer to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then cook the potato-stuffed spring rolls for about 5 minutes, until the outside is browned and crispy.

5. Coffee Banana Smoothie

Chocolate and banana smoothie with oats

Source: iStock

If you’ll be sitting in front of your TV or computer for hours, you’re going to want something to help you stay alert. You’ll get a hit of energy-boosting caffeine from the coffee in this smoothie, while bananas provide potassium and Greek yogurt delivers a healthy serving of protein. Recipe from Cookin’ Canuck.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chilled brewed coffee
  • 1½ bananas, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 2 teaspoons honey or agave nectar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 6 ice cubes

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a heavy-duty blender. Blend until smooth, then serve.

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