The main purpose of healthy snacking is really to take the edge off pre-mealtime hunger without exceeding your caloric needs.
This can be achieved through mindful snacking - eating a nutritious, properly-portioned snack when hunger strikes, which can boost your intake of essential nutrients and healthy food groups such as protein, carbs, fats, fibre and antioxidants.
However, careless snacking, on the other hand, can easily take you over your daily calorie requirements while providing little to no nutritional benefit, a practice that can contribute to the development of a wide range of health problems.
Snacking out of habit, boredom, stress or frustration rather than out of hunger often leads to weight gain.
Unfortunately many of the most widely consumed snack foods are high in refined carbohydrates or added sugar and have a low nutritional value. For example biscuits, cakes and cereal bars can be packed with unhealthy fats and added sugar. Even "fat-free" foods often contain lots of added salt and sugar.
It's a great idea to choose snacks wisely before you feel like snacking, that way the snacks that are available to you actually offer you a healthy alternative.
Eaten two or three hours before lunch or dinner, a small, nutritious snack can both tide you over and help prevent you from overeating at mealtime.
Here are 7 tips for healthier snacking:
- Go for grains. Whole-grain snacks can give you some energy with staying power. Try some plain popcorn, adding your own seasonings such as salt and pepper, chili powder or cinnamon can add flavour without adding the unhealthy saturated fat found in butter.
Other snacks such as brown rice cakes are great. With about 35 calories per rice cake, two rice cakes topped with a teaspoon of almond butter make a healthy, whole-grain snack for less than 200 calories.
- Bring back breakfast. Many breakfast foods can be repurposed as a nutritious snack later in the day. How about a slice of whole-grain toast topped with poached egg, or a mid-morning overnight oats with fresh berries.
Try putting Active Greens into a mid-morning smoothie, just be mindful that smoothies can have a high calorific content if you use a lot of fruit.
- Try a "high-low" combination. Combine a small amount of something with healthy fat, like peanut butter, with a larger amount of something very light, like apple slices or celery sticks.
Other options include – Greek yogurt with a handful of fresh berries, hummus with carrot or celery sticks, cottage cheese and melon, whole-grain crackers with a thin slice of cheese. Why not try a baked apple with nut butter and cinnamon.
- Go nuts. Unsalted nuts and seeds make great snacks. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts (although peanuts are technically legumes like peas and beans, they’re usually referred to as nuts due to their similar nutrition profile and characteristics), roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, hazelnuts, and other nuts and seeds contain many beneficial nutrients and are more likely to leave you feeling full (unlike crisps or other popular snacks).
Nuts have lots of calories, though, so keep portion sizes small. 30g of nuts is about 160-200 calories. A 30g serve of nuts is equivalent to approximately: 20 almonds, 10 Brazil nuts, 15 cashews, 20 hazelnuts, 15 macadamias, 15 pecans, 30 pistachio kernels or 10 whole walnuts, so be aware of your portion size.
- The combo snack. Try to have more than just one macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) at each snacking session. For example, have a few nuts (protein and fat) and some grapes (carbohydrates), or try some whole-grain crackers (carbohydrate) with some low-fat cheese (protein and fat).
Remember that protein will naturally help you to feel satisfied for longer. Try an Active Whey + Collagen protein shake with half a banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter.
- Snack mindfully. Don't eat your snack while doing something else, like surfing the Internet, watching TV, or working at your desk. Instead, stop what you're doing for a few minutes and eat your snack like you would a small meal.
Being mindful when snacking will help you to keep to your portion size and not over eat, which is often very easy to do when snacking.
- Take it with you. Think ahead and carry a small bag of healthful snacks in your pocket or bag so you won't turn in desperation to the cookies at the coffee shop or the candy bars in the office vending machine.
By being prepared you can healthily add snacks to your day without affecting your overall calorie intake. Plan the snacks as part of your meal plan and hit your goals.
We would love to know what healthy snack you turn to. Please comment below, so that we can try them for ourselves.