10/08/2011 08:44 am ET | Updated Dec 06, 2011

Healthy Ways To Celebrate National Pretzel Month

Did you know that October is National Pretzel Month? Who knew! Pretzels have been around for centuries, dating back to the 12th century in Germany. In fact, the pretzel has a religious significance as being a food item that was allowed to be eaten during Lent. There are also some accounts that the pretzel was first eaten by monks, which takes the origin of the pretzel even further back in history.

Since then, the pretzel has been eaten throughout the centuries. The types, textures and flavors today are extremely varied, though the shape has stayed the same. The simple twist and cross, boil and bake has made this a popular snack around the globe. Pretzels are sold on store shelves, sporting events, street vendors and movie theaters. I see why it makes sense for there to be a National Pretzel Month.

As a food coach, I am always looking for healthy snacks that I can tell my clients about. With a pretzel you can create a balanced snack that is filling, nutrient-balanced and tasty. When choosing pretzels as a snack, make sure you add a slice of cheese like a wedge of Laughing Cow or dip one end into a hummus, which will create that nutrient balance with both a protein and a carbohydrate.

Some pretzels can contain high levels of salt and are typically made from white flour, which makes them primarily a carbohydrate. Too much can leave you feeling empty and light-headed since simple carbohydrates are broken down rapidly and are not very filling. We all know that too much salt is not good for our health as well as too many carbohydrates. Looking for better choices is easy with so many varieties. Newman's Organic pretzel rounds are super crunchy and unsalted. Wylde Pretzels are wheat free and gluten free with a touch of salt.

My favorites are Pretzel Crisps. They have the look of a chip, but have the lower fat and sodium of a pretzel. As a flat pretzel, it is easy to create simple snacks that will boost energy in between meals. Add a thin slice of low fat cheese, a quarter size dollop of hummus, sprinkled with a few sunflower seeds and you have a snack that will make a nutritionist smile.

Ok, so there are other things you can do for National Pretzel Month; how about twisting your body like a pretzel with yoga? I know...I am reaching, but when you need to take some time for yourself and go into a full lotus pose, what does that remind you of? A pretzel!

I am a huge fan of yoga. If you are looking for a way to increase your fitness level, health, stamina and peace, then yoga may be exactly what you need. Yoga is a combination of exercise, breathing techniques, and meditation that are all combined to enhance fitness and reduce stress. Learn how to do some easy poses to begin strengthening yourself and reduce fatigue. Once you familiarize yourself with some basic poses, you can go on to more challenging ones to see if yoga will improve your health and well being.

Child's Pose
1) Position yourself on your mat and bend your body onto your knees. Place your feet together and have your buttocks on your heels. Place the knees approximately hip-width apart. Rest your hands on the tops of your thighs with your palms facing down.

2) Take a deep breath and exhale. As you are exhaling, lower your chest to your knees. Move your arms forward.

3) Place your forehead on the floor if you can. If you can't do this, place your forehead as low as is comfortably possible. Place your arms down along your sides and have your hands resting next to your feet with your palms facing up.

4) Take normal breaths through the nose while holding this pose. After holding as long as possible, slowly sit back up and return to the position from step two.

5) Repeat this pose again.

Downward-Facing Dog
1) Start on your hands and knees (also called Child's pose). Have your arms stretched out in front of you with your palms flat on the floor.

2) Curl your toes under and lift your tailbone (or butt) towards the sky. Press down through your palms.

3) Walk your feet into an appropriate position so that they are about as wide apart as your hips. Walk your feet backwards until it feels as though you are forming a big V with your body. You do not need to touch the ground with your heels.

4) Spread out the fingers of your hands, as though making roots into the ground. Press through your palms and your knuckles. Arms should be shoulder width apart.

5) Roll your shoulders out, forming a flat back. Roll your elbows so that the inside of the elbow is facing forward.

6) Let your head follow the natural line of your spine or let your head hang. Look towards your feet.

7) Take three to five breaths through your nose.

8) Come out of the pose by walking your feet forward, or coming gently down on your knees.

1) From your Downward-Facing Dog pose, strike a plank pose and this will help build your arm strength, but also strengthen your core.

2) Hold for at least 30 seconds and build stamina from there. You can also go on your forearms, if wrists begin to ache.

After you have tried these poses, make some delicious healthy pretzel snacks from my Sunday Set-Up Club™. Check them out on my site,

Homemade Soft Pretzels
I have always wanted to make my own pretzels but thought it would be way too hard. I was wrong. My youngest son got in the kitchen for an epic baking event and we were super surprised. After the dough had risen we were eating our pretzels in no time.


1 package dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water or warm beer
5 cups all-purpose white or wheat flour (I split the difference)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping, optional

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water or beer in a large mixing bowl.
Add flour, and mix until blended.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead eight to 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
Place dough in a greased bowl, spin dough around to grease the top.
Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, one hour or until doubled in bulk.
Cut dough into 20-24 pieces; roll each into a ball.
With floured hands, roll each ball between your hands to form a rope 14 inches long.
Twist each into a pretzel shape, placing on greased baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart.
When finished with the dough, fill a bowl with the water and baking soda. Dip each pretzel in the water and return to baking sheet. Brush each pretzel with egg; sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake at 500 degrees for approximately eight to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove pretzels to a wire rack.
Serve warm if you get a chance -- they are delish!

Dark Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Crisps
Salty and sweet with a crunch. That spells "yummy snack" to me. With Original Pretzel Crisps dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with nuts and seeds. Yum!


Pretzel Crisps pretzels- pull out how many you want to have or make a batch of 12 for you and others to enjoy.
1 small bar of dark chocolate, 70% or higher cacao
Nuts and seeds. I use chia seeds, Hemp Hearts from Manitoba Harvest, pecans, almonds etc...

Melt chocolate, dip pretzels in to coat, sprinkle with nuts and seeds. Refrigerate until hard.