Dr Joanna McMillan: Healthy Snacks 101
I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember snacks being much of a thing when I was growing up. As kids we did have afternoon tea when we came home from school – generally toast, a bowl of cereal or some fruit and yoghurt – but otherwise snacking didn’t really happen and certainly not for grownups.
Today I feel snacking has gotten a little out of control. We are encouraged at every turn to eat or drink something! Supermarket shelves abound with all sorts of packaged snacks for kids and adults alike, some blatantly appealing to our taste buds with tempting indulgences, others claiming to be healthy foods … yet they often aren’t.
The result is that many people I talk to are confused about whether snacking is good or bad. About how often they should eat in the day and what constitutes a good healthy snack if they do choose to have one.
Should you snack?
Let’s start with whether snacking is a good idea. The answer is that it can be if you do it right. There are no hard and fast rules about how often you should eat and everyone is different. Some people are happy with two or three more substantial meals a day, while others prefer to graze and enjoy 3 meals and 2-3 healthy nibbles. You’ll probably know which one you are by what feels good to you.
What is ultimately important is the overall quality, quantity and balance of those meals and/or snacks. You can spread your kilojoules and nutrients over however many eating occasions you want, provided you don’t end up eating more than you need. And if you’re trying to lose weight then of course you need to be eating less than you really need.
A good rule of thumb is to think about your hunger level. If you’re thinking about having a snack break then rate your hunger level first. If you’re very hungry and have more than 2 hours until your next meal, having a healthy bite is a good idea. It will stop you being so ravenously hungry come mealtime that you overeat.
If you’re a little hungry but have less than 2 hours until the next meal, then hold off. Have a cup of tea, coffee or glass of sparkling water and distract yourself with an activity. You’ll then be truly hungry come mealtime and really enjoy the food.
I suggest not snacking after dinner, especially while watching TV. That sort of mindless eating almost always leads to overeating… and is more often than not the wrong types of snacks!
Healthy snack ideas
Generally it’s best to keep your snacks pretty simple. Make sure you differentiate between a snack and a meal. Snacks should be smaller and for most people a maximum of 180 Cals (750kJ) is a good guide.
Fresh fruit or a handful of nuts, which are high in protein, make a perfect snack and contribute to your nutritious plant food intake for the day. If you feel like something more indulgent, adding a few squares of dark chocolate to a little bowl of berries and perhaps a few nuts is delicious.
Be careful with commercial snacks and those bought in cafes and other food outlets. Bliss balls and muffins are great examples – they can be healthy and come in with the right calorie count, or they can be calorie bombs with ingredients you’d best not be eating. Read the ingredients lists to be sure of what you are getting… and what a serve is. Sometimes you buy a packet of a healthy sounding snack only to realise the pack contains two or more serves… and it’s hard not to finish the packet.
Making your own treats and snacks at home is a great idea if you have the time. Just be careful, however, as portion control can be hard when you have a whole tray of healthy cookies in front of you!
Fortunately Dietlicious can help here. They have a range of healthy snacks you can order in just the quantity you want with the nutrition calculations and ingredient lists visible on the site. You’ll find quick and easy snacks from sugar free dark chocolate, several different flavoured protein balls, smoothies, nuts or what about a serve of edamame beans?
Here are a few delicious healthy snack ideas:
- An apple or pear with a match-box sized wedge of cheddar cheese
- A Dietlicious Banana Smoothie
- A handful of tamari almonds
- Small bowl of Greek yoghurt with blueberries
- A Dietlicious Lime & Pistachio Slice & a cup of tea
- A banana and small handful of cashews
- A skim latte with a Dietlicious Choc Orange Bliss Ball
- A bowl of mixed berries with a couple of squares of dark chocolate
- Celery sticks spread with a tablespoon of almond or peanut butter
- Carrot sticks with a couple of tablespoons of hummus
- A cup of chai & a Dietlicious Cherrylicious Protein Ball